MULLINGAR HOSTS NATIONAL EVENT HONOURING ORGAN DONORS
(Photos by Conor McCabe tel. 085 7057255 – NO REPRO FEE)
More than 1,000 people from all over Ireland converged in the Midlands town of Mullingar for the Irish Kidney Association 38th Annual Service of Remembrance & Thanksgiving. The Service, which honours organ donors and celebrates their gift of life to others, was held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, on Saturday, 14th October (2.00pm). For many donor families the unique Service has become an anniversary to both remember their loved ones, and for transplant recipients, the opportunity to honour and give thanks for the wonderful ‘gift of life’ they have received.
Photos from the Service can be viewed by clicking on the image below.
Individuals of all faiths, non-religious including Humanist, came together to celebrate the gift of life. During the special Service music and song, by Mullingar Choral Society and Uilleann piper Aoife Nally, were interspersed between poignant symbolic processions and meaningful scripture, reflections and expressions of gratitude, selflessness, and faith in humanity. Following the Service, organ donor families viewed the name of their deceased donor loved one inscribed in the Book of Remembrance, a roll of honour for organ donors.
Taking part in symbolic processional and reading roles were courageous families of deceased organ donors, living kidney and liver donors and grateful transplant recipients of heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and pancreas and a multi organ transplant recipient mother. Also participating were members of the wider organ donation and transplant community, including medical, surgical, and nursing staff. Amongst the participants were Dr. Catherine Motherway, Clinical Lead, Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI) and organ donor coordinator Jean O’Reilly, (ODTI); Transplant Surgeon Gordon Smyth (Beaumont Hospital); Laura Austin and Andrea Fitzmaurice, transplant coordinators (Beaumont Hospital), and Carmela Malapit, a Filipino dialysis nurse at Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore and wife of a kidney transplant recipient.
The two sisters of Ted Tobin, a young man from Crumlin, Dublin, who made history when he became the first person to undergo a transplant in Ireland, which took place on 19th December 1963 (60 years ago), took part in an offertory procession. The deceased’s sister Sylvia O’Donovan, who lives in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, carried a photo of her brother, an accomplished musician, while her sister Jean Keogh, from Enfield, Co Meath, brought one of his prized music books to the altar.
In the opening procession Army Sergeant Lavinia Connell from Athlone, whose late brother John was an organ donor, carried the cross to the altar and she was followed by Leanne Walsh from Tullamore, Co Offaly whose sister Michelle Kavanagh became an organ donor in 2019.
The Transplant Team Ireland sports team led the symbolic Service of Light ceremony by lighting candles for the congregation to honour donors. Nine-year-old Sam Kinahan and his kidney donor father Ivan from Baldoyle, Dublin brought the medals they each won at the British Transplant Games this Summer to the altar.
Helen Nugent from Sutton, Dublin has attended the Service every year since her brother Brendan Tyrrell’s organs were donated in 1987, while Gerard and Margaret Reidy from Loughill West, Limerick have attended since their daughter Miriam passed away in 1997.
Other parents of deceased organ donors who had reading or processional roles at the Service included: Kate Hynes from Thomastown, Kilkenny remembering her son Jonathan who passed away in 2012; Kevin Fitzpatrick from Collinstown, Co Westmeath whose beloved son Darren passed away in 2018; Éilis Carlin from Cloghan, Donegal, whose son Tony passed away in 2019; Michael Kerrigan from Muff, Donegal whose son Cormac who died earlier this year; and Eddie Burns from Macroom, Co Cork whose baby son Harvey died in a car collision 17 years ago.
Sisters Lauren and Niamh Davis from Athy Co Kildare, whose mother Ashling was a deceased organ donor following a fatal brain haemorrhage in 2017, caried a large donor card to the altar.
Transplant recipients carrying out roles in the Service included: Declan Gorman, a liver transplant recipient from Mullingar; Frances Little, also from Mullingar, who had been undergoing dialysis for 16 years before she underwent her life changing transplant last year. Reading a prayer of thanksgiving for living donors was kidney transplant recipient and former Westmeath footballer John Egan, from Athlone, whose father in law donated a kidney to him. John has since wed and become a father. Reading a prayer also was Sinead Lowndes, from Dublin 15 who underwent multiple organ transplants including a liver, pancreas, bowel and part colon, and abdominal wall transplant in the UK in 2019.
Edel O’Brien Farrell, a well-known businesswoman in Mullingar, underwent two living donor kidney transplants. Edel’s mother Moira O’Brien donated a kidney to her 45 years ago when she was just a child. This transplant eventually failed after four decades of successful longevity, and last year Edel’s daughter Laura Farrell stepped up to donate a kidney to her mother. The three generations each brought baskets of the Irish Kidney Association’s emblem, the forget me not flower, the symbol of transplantation, to the altar.
Members of Transplant Team Ireland who took part in the Service of Light Candle ceremony included members of the transplant soccer team John Brennan, a heart transplant recipient from Tallanstown, Co Louth; Dubliners Jack Bentley, a double lung transplant recipient from Lusk, and Jayson Flynn, a liver transplant recipient from Ballyfermot. Other transplant athletes who have participated in World or European Transplant Games who took part in the candle ceremony included: Aodhagan Cullen, a kidney/pancreas transplant recipient from Loughduff, Cavan; and eight kidney transplant recipients including Michelle Reinhardt McCabe from, Smithboro, Monaghan, Sheila Gregan from Nenagh, Tipperary, Teresa Smyth from Dunmore/Williamstown, Galway; Finian Farrell, Mullingar, Westmeath; John McAleer, Jordanstown, Co. Antrim; and Patrick O’Sullivan, Mallow, Co Cork; and Dubliners Team Captain Harry Ward (Baldoyle), Ron Grainger (Castleknock), John Moran (Glasnevin) and on dialysis, Peter Heffernan (Skerries).
The Irish Kidney Association’s national honorary chairman, Eddie Flood, a kidney transplant recipient from Killucan, Co Westmeath, performed the role of narrator at the Service. While acknowledging all who contributed to the event, Mr. Flood thanked the Catholic Bishop of Meath, Most Reverend Thomas Deenihan, Very Reverend Phil Gaffney and Chief Celebrant at the Service Reverend Barry White, for hosting the Service in the Cathedral. Mr. Flood also thanked co-celebrant Fr. Stan Deegan, P.P. from his local parish, Killucan, as well as co-celebrant Reverend Canon Alastair Graham, Church of Ireland, Evangelist Mario Martins from Youth for Christ Ireland, and Louise Burchall, who represented the Humanist Association of Ireland.
For the first time since its inception, this unique Service, was held in the Midlands, and it will be the second time only for it to be held outside of Dublin. This year’s Service saw the return to an in-person gathering, following three consecutive years of a televised virtual event due to Covid.
The confidential database for organ donor families is held by Organ Donation Transplant Ireland.
The Service was recorded by Kairos and will be broadcast on RTÉ One TV and RTÉ Radio One Extra on 5th November at 11am.
The Irish Kidney Association Liturgy Committee, who were involved in the organisation and planning of the event, comprised: Cathriona Charles (Leitrim), Eddie Flood, National Chairman (Westmeath), Joan Gavan (Tipperary), Ashling Hand (Dublin), Gwen O’Donoghue (Offaly), and Olive Cummins (Dublin). Refreshments were served after the Service at Colaiste Mhuire (CBS).
Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to Share their Wishes with their family and keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or having the ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the IKA website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.