Life of Father Patrick Dowd worth celebrating
15 AUGUST 2012
A CELEBRATION to mark the life of Father Patrick Dowd in Dunleer, incorporating Paris and the Canadian city of Montreal, would be a perfect ‘ local’ event as part of ‘ The Gathering’ in 2013.
Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fr Dowd, acclaimed as a man who saved thousands of lives in the years after the Famine when beaten and broken Irish arrived in Canada, intent on a new life.
Fr Dowd has ventured out there in 1848 and became the pastor of St Patrick’s, Montreal, which for the many decades to come, proved a beacon of light for lost and vulnerable souls.
His courage was awe-inspiring, yet it all began in his home town of Dunleer. He was the son of Patrick and Mary (McDonald) Dowd.
He went off to Newry for Classical Studies as a young boy, and 180 years ago this year, departed for Paris to study at the Irish College. Five years later he was ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Quelen.
He returned to Ireland but a decade later made up his mind to join the Order of St Sulpice in Paris. On June 21 1848 he arrived in Montreal and 12 years later became Director of St Patrick’s.
In 1865 he established a home for the old and infirm and a night refuge for the destitute and 140 years ago founded St Patrick’s School on St Alexander Street for girls.
He held bazaars to provide funds for orphans and in 1877 organised one of the greatest Irish journeys out of Canada, the Irish Catholic Pilgrimage to Lourdes and Rome.
Mysteriously, the ship on which they sailed lost all contact with home and for weeks it was feared it was lost. But thankfully, it reappeared.
On a few occasions he was up for promotion, but declined roles in Toronto to stay with his congregation in Montreal.
When addressing the City Council once he explained that when he arrived in Montreal he asked for a meeting of the Irish Catholic population, saying he was going to organise masses. 30 people turned up.
Some years later he had five churches operating and a congregation of 30,000!
Fr Dowd died on December 19th 1891 in Montreal. 20,000 people filed past his remains and his funeral, which was held in Notre-Dame, was attended by four bishops and 200 priests.
He was buried in the crypt of the Grand Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal.
Margaret Murphy, now 91, and a native of Ballinfull, Hackballscross, is proud to say that Fr Dowd was her great, great granduncle and she would love to see his story revived and his memory truly honoured in Dunleer.