Fr. Vincent Kavanagh, a much-loved and esteemed member of our Esker Community, Irelanad, passed away on 15th of May, 2015.
Fr. Vincent was a native of Arklow in County Wicklow. After his Ordination to the Priesthood in Cluain Mhuire, Galway, he became Socius or assistant to the Novice Master in Esker, Fr. Johnny McDonnell. In the middle sixties, he worked for a time in St. Clement’s Retreat House in Belfast, and then began the retreat house in Cluain Mhuire in Galway. Later, he moved to Limerick, where he worked first in the Retreat House there, and then later in Mount St. Alphonsus. This was where he began his great work of developing the Novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help, from what was then a small event to what soon became a major annual event each June, attracting over 10,000 each day. This has continued until the present day, and Clonard Novena likewise grew immensely and remains so. Over quite a number of years, Fr. Vincent and the ‘Novena Team’ travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, holding this 9-day ‘Festivals of Faith’ as Fr. Vinnie called them.
Fr. Brendan G McConvery, CSsR, wrires about the novena in the church of Mount St Alphonsus: “Ten sessions each day filled the large church of Mount St Alphonsus from early morning until late at night. The congregations were so large that they spilled into the corridors of the monastery and extra sessions were held in a large marquee erected in the garden. The emphasis was on joyful celebration with music and song at the heart of it, led by priests or lay cantors with fine voices and often, local bands were brought along to play for the crowd in the church yard before and after the event. The surroundings of the church were decorated with flags and bunting. The sacrament of reconciliation with a large number of confessors was available all day. If there was not enough room in the church, Vincent hired caravans and set them up as confessionals in the church car park. He also appreciated that people own something the more they are involved in it. Myriads of lay helpers were drafted in as car-park and church stewards, first-aiders, caterers and cleaners. So successful was the novena in Limerick that other places were soon applying for novenas: novenas became an alternative to parish missions in places like Carlow cathedral, Holy Cross, Galway Cathedral and in towns and parishes throughout the country. They are still a major part of the apostolate of Irish Redemptorists in both their own churches and elsewhere.”
Also while in Limerick, Fr. Vinnie put great energy into what is known now as ‘The Poor Campaign’, which helped many thousands, during the year but especially at Christmas time. This same ‘Poor Campaign’ continues in Limerick to this day.
For the past twenty years of so, Fr. Vincent has been part of Esker, putting great energy into different projects. He had a great love for the annual celebration at St. Dominic’s Well, a custom going back centuries. As well as much other work, Fr. Vincent went to great lengths to develop the Esker Youth Village, and also the Esker Pitch and Putt course. This Youth Village hosts thousands of young people every year, and the facilities that are there are wonderful, and much loved by the young.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis!. May the Mother of Perpetual Help, whose devotion he so fostered, give him a great Céad Míle Fáilte!