FIFTY years ago, Laois and Longford met in the Leinster senior football final in Croke Park and the O’Moores were favourites, but it all went wrong. Down in Durrow, there were great celebrations in June when bishop Peter Birch ordained a number of young men to the priesthood in St Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. Among them was a young man from Cullohill John Lalor, a son of Vera and the late John of Chapel Street, Durrow.
Twenty-four hours later in Durrow, Fr John celebrated his first Mass before a huge attendance that included his parents and other family members. His first posting was in Laois and after spending time in both Kilkenny and Laois, Fr John moved to Camross as a temporary curate and acting PP. Fr Lalor enjoyed his early months under the Slieve Blooms and the parishoners who had never had a Laois man as PP were growing to enjoy the new man from the south of the county, for his wit and religious knowledge endeared him to parishoners and with Fr Donal O’Hanlon unlikely to resume it seemed only natural that Fr Lalor would continue his mission.
Fr Lalor explained that the bishop had summoned him to Kilkenny in his early days in the parish and offered him a parish further down the Nore where the grass was greener or to remain under the shadow of the Slieve Bloom mountains. Fr Lalor replied that he did not need time to consider his options and wished to remain where the people were friendly and generous with their time and money.
On Sunday 10 June, St Fergal’s church, which replaced the old church in 1976, was the setting for the celebration of Fr Lalor’s golden jubilee and several other clerics were present. Leading the clerical delegation was the new bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell and representing the Church of Ireland was Archdeacon Murray; Fr Lar Dunphy, a Cullohill native, who spent more than ten years as a curate in Camross parish; Fr Doherty, PP, Durrow; Fr Willie Hennessey, PP, Castletown; Fr Michael Ryan, Castlecomer; Fr John Fitzpatrick, Deerpark; Fr Walter Cooke, Crannagh; and Fr Martin Delaney, PP, Rathdowney and a native of the parish.
On a beautiful summer’s evening, a huge crowd of parishoners were present to join in the celebrations and many lay people played their part. The Offertory procession saw representatives of every organisation in the parish bring forward mementos, like the parish lotto, a deck of cards representing whist drives and 25s that have survived over 100 years and seven flags of the parishes Fr Lalor has served in since his ordination.
Other organisations brought altar linen representing the sacristans who work tirelessly to ensure it always looks glistening. The scouts, too, played their part and Fr Lalor is the main overseer of this organisation, which provides both indoor and outdoor pursuits all year round, a pastoral candle, a beautiful painting by a local artist who was commissioned to paint the stations of the cross a few years ago, and Fr Lalor’s brother Gay and sister Ann brought bread and wine, symbols of the body and blood of Christ. There was wonderful music and singing by local artistes and at the conclusion of the ceremony many tributes were paid to the quiet man who took it all in his stride. Fr Lalor then addressed the gathering and said he knew this day would happen and he would have preferred a quiet celebration, but the parish wished to pay tribute and he would not stand in its way.
The celebrant recalled many sad and happy occasions he had been part of over 30 years and paid tribute to the many organisations in the parish who help to keep the wheels turning and hoped their support would continue into the future. Paddy Dooley gave a historic reflection on the Lalor family and Arthur Buckley offered a parish reflection on the man who tries to help everyone. After the ceremony, all were invited to join in the celebrations in the parish centre, another landmark that Fr Lalor has overseen in his time.
Fr Lalor will remain as PP in Camross for the foreseeable future and the parish will benefit from his experience and general knowhow in a changing time for the Church in general.