IT was a rare event when more than 30 priests and nuns who have previously served in Orange returned for the sesquicentenary dinner of the Catholic parish of Orange on Wednesday night.
St Mary and St Joseph parish priest Father Paul Devitt put forward the idea last year that bringing the clergy back to reconnect, albeit it briefly with the community they have served, would be a fitting way to mark the anniversary.
“The reason we chose a night in the middle of the week was to give the priests a chance to return to Orange from their own parishes from a wide area,” Father Devitt said.
Master of ceremonies for the evening and Catherine McAuley Catholic Primary School principal Michael Croke said the event exceeded all expectations.
“When this event was first being planned we truly wondered whether we could get 150 people interested and now we have more than 350 here tonight,” he said.
“It is wonderful to see so many of our priests and nuns here who have made such a huge effort to return as many of them are now ageing and we may never have this many in a room again.”
Many of the older priests and nuns who attended served the Catholic parishes of either St Joseph’s or St Mary’s in Orange before both were combined in 2001.
A Catholic Q & A session at the end of the evening moderated by Mr Croke provided a rare insight into the history of the parish, as well as forward thinking views on the future and challenges faced by the church across a diverse age group.
The panel was made up of Father Devitt, Father Gregory Kennedy, Maureen Aylmer, Paul McKie and Jane Thompson.
James Sheahan Catholic High School students played a big part in the success of the evening, providing chamber-style music throughout the evening and waiting on tables for guests.