St Columba – Colm Cille – whose birth we commemorate this year, spoke and preached in Irish. Among all the celebrations of the 1500th anniversary of his birth, it was very fitting that a service was held ‘as Gaeilge’ – in Irish – at his namesake church, St Columba’s, in Gleann Cholm Cille in west Donegal.
The ‘Service of Celebration and Commemoration’ was held outdoors on a sunny Saturday 5th June. Among the congregation, parishioners of St Columba’s were joined by members of community organisation Lár-Chomhairle Pharóiste Ghlenn Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille Central Parish Council) and the local Irish language college, Oideas Gael.
The service was thoroughly Anglican, based on the Irish-language version of the Book of Common Prayer. It was led by the Rector of Castlerock, Dunboe and Fermoyle, Rev Chris MacBruithin, with participation also from local resident Fr Proinnsias Mac a tSaor.
Local musician, Ellie Níc Fhionnghaile, contributed psalms in plainchant as would have been sung in early Christian Ireland, as well as the locally composed hymn ‘Colm Cille’.
As an act of commemoration, three oak trees were planted, using soil from Gartan where the saint was born.
The Raphoe part of our United Diocese contains one quarter of all native Irish speakers. The service was a visible display of meitheal, or ‘community togetherness’, and a reminder that Gaeilge is part of our joint Christian heritage.