THE RELIC OF ST. OLIVER PLUNKETT
Below are two letters of thanks; one from Sr. Veronica Rafferty OP to the Dominican Sisters and a reply to same from Mr. Tommy Burns, and Mgr. James Carroll P.P., Rosario, Argentina.
These letters tell the story of the transfer of the relic of St. Oliver Plunkett from Siena Convent, Drogheda to Argentina.
Now that we are writing to thank you for your generous cooperation in the donation and transfer of Saint Oliver Plunkett’s relic to St Patrick’s church in Rosario, Argentina, we would like to tell you the story of how this all came about.
In 1840, members of the Plunkett family reached Argentina in their own sailing ship, led by John Plunkett. They settled in Bahia Blanca and kept the memory of the saint. When he was beatified in 1920, they organized celebrations and produced a small holy picture to commemorate the occasion. A direct descendent of John Plunkett, called Rodolfo Plunkett, now lives in Rosario and has kept the holy picture in his purse for years. Then in 2006, he was gifted with a beautiful large picture frame by an Irish Argentine lady called Iris Burger. It was crafted in wood in the 19th century, so he decided to restore its beauty and then was inspired to paint in oils a portrait of Saint Oliver on cloth. That painting was formally blessed by Padre Thomas Santidrian in the presence of a large number of the committee of St Patrick’s Catholic Association
Then in 2015, Sister Veronica Rafferty, Dominican, chanced to visit Loughcrew and Oldcastle in County Meath. As she brought back photos of these places associated with St. Oliver, she and Rodolfo convinced the Irish Argentine community to celebrate for the first time in their chapel Oliver’s feastday on 1st July, and prepared a powerpoint presentation on his life, as many had no knowledge whatsoever about him. Rodolfo brought his painting and it was placed before the altar during the Mass. The chaplain, Padre Pablo Lazarte, preached on his life and after Mass, suggested to Sister Veronica to try to get a relic of the saint.
Thanks to the intervention of the Congregation archivist , Sister Stella Maris, it emerged that Cabra had possessed a relic donated by Cardinal Moran. And in 2014 had passed it on to Siena convent. Fortunately the prioress of Siena kindly acceded to our request. Sister Dorothy Callanan and a Rosario man, Guillermo Allen, managed successfully to get the relic from Drogheda to Rosario in time for the 1st July celebration. The Archbishop of Rosario, himself of Irish descent on his mother’s side, could not be present as he was in Europe, but he named Padre Pablo Lazarte as his representative.
A solemn reception took place on a rainy evening on Friday 1st July, complete with bagpipes and banners. Photographs and a short video are available. Rodolfo donated his painting and it is placed beside the relic, which is due course will be safely lodged in a niche.
So we have a sense that God has intervened in this story and that Rosario will benefit from the prayers for peace that will be sent up for St Oliver’s intercession.
Wishing you every divine blessing,
Sister Veronica Rafferty O.P.
Response to Sr. Veronica from Tommy Burns, Chairman: St. Oliver Plunkett for Peace and Reconciliation, Mgr. James Carroll P.P. Custodian of the National Shrine of St. Oliver.
Dear Sr. Veronica,
We are ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED here at the National Shrine of St. Oliver in Drogheda, to hear that you are setting up a Shrine later this week to St. Oliver in Rosario, Argentina with one of St. Oliver’s most important Relics. It will be the first Major Shrine to the martyred Archbishop of Armagh in the America’s and will be all the more important for that reason. The Relic of St. Oliver’s elbow and arm was given shortly after his martyrdom to his best friend, Archbishop John Brenan of Cashel. As you are probably aware, St. Oliver has been adopted as Patron for Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland and through his intercession he has already played a very important role in the recent successes of the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
I am a lay person here in the parish of the National Shrine and am chairman of the the National Committee; ‘St. Oliver Plunkett for Peace and Reconciliation’. Mgr. James Carroll P.P. Custodian of the National Shrine, sends his greetings to Rosario and we look forward to your reports and pictures of the opening and translation of the Relic at this major new Shrine to Oliver.
While we will celebrate St. Oliver’s Feast on Friday July 1st our Procession and National Celebrations take place this coming Sunday 3rd July, with Cardinal Sean Brady presiding.
We are just home after our St. Oliver, Jubilee Year of Mercy Pilgrimage to Rome, led by Archbishop Eamon Martin and successor of St. Oliver in Armagh. During our pilgrimage we undertook the 23km. Pilgrimage Walk of the Seven Churches in Rome, which was recorded by St. Oliver in his letters. A number of Pilgrims joined us in Rome from Lamspringe in Germany, home of another Shrine to St. Oliver and where the saints body was kept for two hundred years.
Rosario will soon find itself blessed to have this important new shrine.
St. Oliver as Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland, victim-soul during the 19 months he spent in harsh prison cells, and willing martyr for the Faith at Tyburn, he is most definitely in the upper, upper tiers of the saints. You will soon come to experience his powerful intercession first hand. It was not a co-incidence that he was the last Catholic Martyr of Tyburn and that he became the very last martyr for the faith condemned by the State in these Islands.
Tommy Burns, Chairman: St. Oliver Plunkett for Peace and Reconciliation
Mgr. James Carroll P.P. Custodian of the National Shrine of St. Oliver.