Eucharistic Congress Of 1932 Recalled - The Tipperary Participation

By: Jimmy Fogarty

By: Jimmy Fogarty

As a lead up to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June 2012, this article reviews that of eighty years ago. Whether that great display of faith and reverence will be manifested six months hence is open to some conjecture. It is believed that a renewal of faith in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist will provide the remedy for our religious indifference. The Eucharistic Congress of 2012 will, of course, take place in an Ireland immensely alien from the country The Papal Legate, Cardinal Lauri visited in 1932; with the Church under much pressure in an increasingly diverse Catholic community.

The 1932 Eucharistic Congress (21st to 26th June) in Dublin was one of the greatest gatherings of Catholics in Ireland up to then. The crowds even exceeded the mass gatherings at the Daniel O’Connell open air meetings of a century earlier and exceeded the estimated attendance by 300,000. It was a huge celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist to honour the fifteenth hundred anniversary of the conversion of Ireland by St. Patrick. Over one million people attended Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on the closing Sunday, the highlight of the week. It personified the confidence and strength of the Irish Catholic Church of the twentieth century.

In June next year Dublin and Ireland will again host another Eucharist Congress, – (Eocairisteach chomhdhail), the 50th such gathering. The theme chosen is: “The Eucharist Communion with Christ and with one another”. Already nationwide activities are in hand to the count down and for the preparation of another mammoth event in our history. County Tipperary was well represented at that Congress by clergy and laity. This article traverses the strands of history to bring to readers the events of eighty years ago.

How It All Began:

Some people will have heard their grandparents or parents speak of 1932 and those great magnifications of the Catholic faith in Ireland, but what are Eucharistic Congresses? A Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people clerical and lay which aims to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church, help improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy and to draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist.

Congresses began in 1881 (Lille) through the piety of a woman. It was Maries Tamisier, Tours (born 1834). She found her vocation not in the life of a religious community but in promoting pilgrimages to shrines especially sanctioned by Eucharist miracles in her time. The inspiration came to her while attending Mass for the consecration of France to the Sacred Heart in the chapel of the Visitation of Paray-le-Monial, the same place where Marguerite-Marie Alacoque had the visions which gave rise to modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her efforts were tenacious and successful, but like the case of work done by many women in the church Maries Tamisier got little recognition for the great icon she commenced.

Most Rev. Dr. J. M.Harty’s 1932 Pastoral Letter:

The objects of the 1932 Eucharist Congress in Dublin were clearly spelt out by Most Rev. Dr. J.M Harty, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly to his people in his Lenten Pastoral in February of that year. In a long address he outlined that 1932 would be memorable in the annals of Ireland; as during the year notable events would be celebrated with special splendour - the fifteenth century of the coming of St. Patrick to Ireland and the International Eucharist Congress to be held in Dublin in June.

During the course of his pastoral the Archbishop said that during this memorable year people from many nations would come to Ireland. Including many of our Irish kith and kin from America, Australia and other countries. Bishops and priests who administer to our Irish exiles will come to do honour to the Blessed Sacrament. Distinguished visitors will come from Europe where the pilgrim missionaries of Ireland preached the faith of Patrick. Above all the Papal Legate (the Pope’s personal messenger) would come from the Sea of Peter, to which our Irish faith owes its origin.

These people may ask us about our faith – does Ireland hold firmly to the faith of Patrick? Is there danger that the communism of the twentieth century will succeed where the Protestantism of the sixteenth and subsequent centuries failed? In answer to such questions I can point to our past history and our recent history. In the past our fathers were prepared to lay down their lives for the Catholic faith and centuries of fierce persecution were unable to rob them of their belief in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Mother of God and the Primary of the Holy See. As exiles from their native land Irish people carried the faith with them to their new homes and in its strength built up a flourishing Catholic Church in the lands of their adoption.

Our Priceless Treasure:

Dr.Harty continued – “We must, accordingly in our daily lives, revere Our Divine Saviour, Jesus Christ, as our King, whose person demands our respect and whose laws demand our obedience. We must lovingly regard Our Blessed Lady, the Mother of God, as Our Queen, who sits at the right hand of her Divine Son in Heaven and in whose honour we ought to perform acts of piety and prayer such as the Rosary, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin and the May and October devotions. We must look on the Sovereign Pontiff as the Vicar of Christ on earth whose teaching on faith and morals we willingly accept, whose laws we are ever ready to obey and whose administration and executive acts we receive with docility. In this way we shall maintain the Catholic faith and hand down to future generations of our race our priceless treasure that has come down to us from St. Patrick”

Archbishop Harty said as an immediate preparation for the Congress he directed that Sunday 12th June be set aside as a day of General Holy Communion for women and the following Sunday for men and a day within that week for schoolchildren. It is also desirable that as many as possible attend the Congress celebrations in Dublin, especially the High Mass in the Phoenix Park on the closing Sunday (26th) which will be celebrated by the Papal Legate and the glorious procession of the Blessed Sacrament that will wend its sacred way from the ‘Park to O’Connell Street This closing ceremony will be a great international act of faith in the Real Presence and will be a fitting conclusion to our national celebrations of the memory of the coming of St. Patrick to Ireland.

Interviewed after Congress Most Rev Dr, Harty said that the event was beyond his expectations and that the two things that impressed him most were the extraordinary devotion in the Phoenix Park, the great silence there and on O’Connell Bridge.

The Diocese Obeyed:

Cashel & Emly Catholics adhered to the advice of their Archbishop and the preparations proposed were carried out in all parishes. In Thurles the Urban Council led the way well supplemented by individual effort. Streets were decorated with flags, banners and religious emblems. A particular feature was the floodlighting of the Cathedral and the Ursuline Convent until after midnight. In the vicinity two very artistic banners with inscriptions in golden letters in praise of the Blessed Sacrament spanned the street. Even areas considered the poorest in Thurles at this time contributed with their own special displays. On the Thursday and Friday nights the town was well illuminated - lighted candles, coloured electric lights and holy pictures were placed in all the houses.

Borrisoleigh also spruced up the town to honour the Congress and many travellers in transit between Thurles and Nenagh made a stop to view the great array of colours.

Nenagh was also awash with streamers decorating the gates with the Papal and Congress colours prominent. A beautiful grotto was erected in Sarsfield Street. Due to all the local clergy attending the Congress on the Sunday local Masses were celebrated by the Cistercian Fathers, Roscrea.

Tipperary Town:

Tipperary Town was the mecca of all decorations with the local community rising to the occasion with great gusto. After a public meeting in the local Town hall representatives of all strands of parishioners put their shoulder to the wheel and ensured that their preparations were first class. After a well supported appeal fund, work started on the project. The result was that a great beauty was unfolded – with coloured flags, bunting, banners with religious messages spanned the approaches to the town and the various street junctions.

From the windows of every house floated the Papal and Eucharist colours and the Irish and American flags and various religious statutes. Grottos were erected at many street junctions which were illuminated at night with coloured lights. The decorations reflected the talent of the local artists who planned and carried out the designs. Some Cardinals passing though referred to the display as the best they had seen anywhere. Templemore, Fethard, Ballingarry and other towns were also well decorated.

Rural Areas:

All parishes vied with each other for the occasion- every village put their best foot forward to celebrate the great event with religion and colour. From the roofs of many homesteads in the Glen of Aherlow and in remote places on the slopes of the Galtee mountains, the Silvermines, the Comeraghs and Slievenamon, flags were displayed. Crosses were erected on many hills and some remain to this day.

County Tipperary 1932 Congress Connections

Right Rev. Dr J Byrne, Bishop of Toowoomba, Queensland who was on the Australian delegation was a native of Ballingarry. Apart from Rev. Dr M Harty, who attended many of the functions, as did the President of St. Patrick’s College Thurles Very Rev. N Cooke, also in attendance of course were most of the priests of the Archdiocese. At a reunion given to His Eminence Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of New York in the Gresham Hotel the guests included Most Rev. Dr. S.J Cantwell, Bishop of Los Angeles and a native of Fethard. Rev Monsignor Dean Innocent Ryan, P.P. V.G Cashel, was assistant priest at the children’s Mass. Cardinal Hayes Archbishop of New York (whose father was a Tipperaryman from near Templemore and his mother a Glennon from Killarney), led the New York delegation of over 800. A church fundraising event in Borrisoleigh had two eminent religious figures patronising - Most Rev Dr Brown, Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark and Monsignor Gonne Rector, StBede’s College, Manchester both were guests of Rev Father Quinlan, P.P. They also visited Boherlahan.

County Tipperary Pilgrims:

From County Tipperary excursion trains and buses were arranged from many places. Train commuters from Co Tipperary rail stations were : - Roscrea & Birr (1,161), Thurles & Fethard (1,139), Nenagh (400) Cashel (525), Cahir (1,121). Most would have heard midnight Mass in their own parishes or towns before departure. A total of over one hundred thousand used the rail services. From an early hour Kingsbridge station (now Heuston) was open. At short intervals thirty seven trains arrived from the South and Midlands. Arrivals at this station had the advantage that they could reach the nearby Phoenix Park on foot. The departures were all between one and three a.m on Monday morning. But of course with such large crowds train schedules often fell behind time. Many arrived tired and went straight to their pre booked bed and breakfast abodes for some rest. Others crossed over to the Phoenix Park and some into the city centre to have breakfast and view the decorations. At the station tea was provided in paper cups and also sandwiches but most people brought cases filled with food. But with all the inconveniences and the discomfort which were almost inevitable, when such a multitude had to be transported over long distances, not one who travelled would have missed the great spectacle. In most Tipperary towns the Monday was observed as a holiday and most shops closed.

Apart from the trains, other forms of transport used included buses, motor cars, thousands of bicycles, motor cycles and freight lorries. Many made it a real “pilgrimage” by walking long distances to the city and took it in the “penitential mood”.

Radio Link:

Wireless played an important part in the concluding day of the Congress, Not only were the services relayed all over Ireland and other countries but also to the Vatican, where the Pope himself was heard by the Dublin crowd giving his Benediction in Latin n the seclusion of his private study. A new radio station was opened in Athlone 2RN, to broadcast the Congress activities and was relayed on stations throughout the world. The world’s largest PA system was installed, and a high-powered radio transmission mast was built at Athlone to broadcast coverage both of the event and of the broadcast by the Pope to the Irish people made from the Vatican. The radio link between Dublin and Rome was considered a major communications feat. Engineers spent many days trying to perfect the link.


Thousands of people lined the streets to welcome the Papal Legate, the Pope’s personal representative His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri on his journey from Dun Laoghaire to the centre of Dublin. All the public buildings were lit up at night for the duration of the week and Dublin was a city of lights and illuminations. The Congress opened with Mass in the Pro Cathedral. Throughout the week the Churches were thronged with people attending Masses, Benediction or just making a quiet visit. The Mens, Womens and Childrens Masses in the Phoenix Park. were some of the highlights.

On Sunday, the 26th June, the weeklong ceremonies came to a close with open air Mass in the Phoenix Park. One million people attended this Mass and one hundred and eighty Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, four thousand priests and six thousand religious brothers and sisters making up the clergy section. It was relayed on radio throughout Ireland. Massed bands and choirs provided the music for the Mass. Ireland’s international tenor, Count John McCormack, was the soloist.

The Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, addressed the people of Ireland from his library in the Vatican in Rome, his address was relayed through the PA system and to people who had radios at homes.

Congress 2012 (June 10th – 17th.)

The Eucharistic Congress Bell is a key symbol of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. From its origins in the Dominican Convent of Portstewart, Co. Derry the Bell was used to ring in the Jubilee Year 2000 in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. This has always been important in our Christian tradition and is no less so today. On Saint Patrick’s Day, 2011, a pilgrimage of the Congress Bell began from St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin and was in Cashel & Emly diocese from the 27th October 2011 to the 6th November 2011 and taken to all the parishes. Large crowds attended in churches, even sometimes during inclement weather. It journey will be completed in mid January.

The congress organizing committee conscious of the economic situation in Ireland have put together a registration package of under €100 for people to participate in the entire week and a half week deal will also be available. This is to offset the great costs in organising such a large event. The RDS and Croke Park will be the ceremonial main centres.

The contact person for the 2012 Eucharistic Congress in the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly is Rev. Canon Eugene Everard, P.P., Templemore, Co. Tipperary.

Previous Congresses:

1881— Lille, France 1882 — Avignon, France 1883 — Liège, Belgium 1885 — Fribourg, Switzerland 1885 — Toulouse, France 1888 — Paris, France 1890 — Antwerp, Belgium 1893 — Jerusalem, Syria 1894 — Reims, France 1897 — Paray-le-Monial, France (This is the church where Marguerite-Marie Alacoque had the visions which gave rise to modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.)1898 — Brussels, Belgium 1899 — Lourdes, France1901 – Anvers, France 1902 — Namur, Belgium 1904 — Angoulême, France 1905 — Rome, Italy 1906 — Tournai, Belgium 1907 — Metz, Germany 1907 — London, England 1909 — Cologne, Germany 1910 — Montreal, Canada 1911 — Madrid, Spain 1912 — Vienna, Austria 1913 — Malta 1914 — Lourdes, France 1922 — Rome, Italy 1926 — Chicago, USA 1928 — Sydney, Australia 1930 — Carthage, Tunis 1932 — Dublin, Ireland 1934 — Buenos Aires, Argentina 1937 — Manila, Philippines 1938 — Budapest, Hungary 1952 — Barcelona, Spain 1955 — Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1960— Munich, Germany 1964 — Bombay, India 1968 — Bogota, Columbia 1973 — Melbourne, Australia 1976 — Philadelphia, USA 1981 — Lourdes, France 1985 — Nairobi, Kenya 1989 — Seoul, S. Korea 1993 — Seville, Spain 1997 - Wroclaw, Poland 2000 - Rome (the first Congress to be celebrated in a Jubilee Year and the third for the Eternal City) 2004 Guadalajara, Mexico 2008 Quebec 2012 Dublin.

Co. Tipperary 1932 Trivia:

During the Spring of 1932 there was evidently influenza sweeping Ireland according to the papers of the time. It was a type known as Spanish Influenza, but while not as severe as previous illnesses was of a longer lasting nature.

Local chemists and shops advertised what they considered “cures” To get your extra vitamins. Johnston’s of Thurles sold oranges at reduced prices - 20 Valum Oranges 20 at 1/-, Jaffa at 1/6 a dozen and a two lb jar of Orange Marmalade Jam for 3/-. Smokers who had sore throats were advised to smoke “Craven A” cigarettes which were said to be manufactured especially to prevent the problem. Then there was Hot Oxo which was advised to take at 11 a.m. each morning. If you had a persistent cough; Tobins, Chemists, Thurles and Urlingford had the cure with “Special Syrup” and also had “Vitogen Tonic”. If you needed to build up after the virus “Hall’s Wine did the trick and Buckfast Tonic Wine selling at 6/- a bottle was another recommendation. The popular favourite to bring down the temperature was “Aspro” and cost 3d, 6d, 1/3 and 2/6 a packet. There was no shortage of recommended cures but as to the authenticity of the results we are not sure?

The Christian Brothers arrived in Templemore and opened a school there.

Fourteen candidates contested the General Election for Co. Tipperary and elected were Dan Breen, Andy Fogarty, Timothy Sheehy, Sean Hayes (Fianna Fail), Seamus Bourke, John Hassett (Cumann na Gael)and Dan Morrissey (Independent).

At the Los Angeles Olympics, Bob Tisdall and Pat ‘Callaghan won gold medals.

Damer House in Roscrea reverted back to being a school after housing a British military garrison, a boys school and a sanatorium.

New GAA fields were opened in Roscrea and Carrick-on-Suir (Davin Park).

On Easter Sunday Commemorations attracted large crowds to parades and speeches in Thurles, Nenagh, Templemore, Tipperary and Dualla to honour all those who died in every generation in the cause of Irish freedom.

After the Tailteann Games in Croke Park the American hurling team was invited to Thurles where they played Tipperary at the Sportsfield and afterwards were entertained at a function in Hayes Hotel and were presented with an illuminated address.

On the inter county scene Tipperary minor hurlers won the All Ireland and in domestic championships Moycarkey-Borris won the senior hurling and Kilsheelan the senior football.

Cahir Park soccer club played in the Munster senior league.

Congress Mementos:

In the weeks previous to the 1932 Congress The Tipperary Star advertised many mementos of the event. The handbook and hymn book were on sale in churches and could be purchased for 2d. Another popular item was the official gold badge for adults and silver gilt badge for schoolchildren. Most local shops also advertised Congress, Papal and the tricolour (correct format) flags. A special commemoration stamp was issued in 2d and 3d denominations. Dublin householders, B&B’s and hotels advertised accommodation by the day or week at what they described as reasonable prices. In Dublin the traders did a roaring business with almost every visitor buying some souvenir. Many are preserved to this day and the 2012 organisers will have a special memorabilia display from eighty years ago.