Celebrating 50 years: St Mary’s Parents and Friends Garden Party Festival

by Kathy O’Grady

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In 1960, much like the present, services struggled to respond to the ever increaseing demands on resources to provide something better for people with intellectual disability.

In Co Westmeath the call for help was answered in the early days by local business people such as Brendan Kearney, some professionals and by Sr Carmel Walsh, Sr Anthony O’Connor, and Sr Marian Walsh of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary.

While raising much needed funds was important, the welfare of the school children and residents was also the priority of the large membership of 450- While the Sisters had been teaching children since 1954, it was in 1959 the the Dept of Education sanctioned St Mary’s Special School. The work of the Parents and Friends ensured that the equipment and teaching aids were of a high standard. In 1982 Sr Carmella Wallace and Bishop John McCormack laid the foundation stone for the hydrotherapy pool provided though the efforts of many, including St Mary’s P&F Association.

On May 7th 2010, the grounds of St Mary’s Delvin were the scene of a massive celebration put on by the Parents and Friends.

The sunshine beamed down on the 600 party goers who enjoyed the buffet, bar.b.que, pig roasting, as well as the music and pageantry. All those associated with St Mary’s P&F’s proud 50 year history were asked to join in.

Catriona Corcoran thanked all who had worked so hard down through the years, as well as the more recent helpers who had contributed to the present celebration of the association’s work dedicated to helping others.

Catriona remarked that the change in direction to community-based services and optimal individualised service design is welcomed and she is optimistic that the work of the Parents and Friends will go on.

Above: The Children of Lir Pageant is enacted in St Mary’s Delvin as part of the Garden Party to celebrate 50 years of the Parents and Friends.
Left: Enjoying the festivities at the Garden Party are brother and sister Anthony and Mary Martin.