THEY came on crutches, in wheelchairs, linking loved ones – any way they could - to venerate the relics of St Therese of Lisieux at Dromin church.
Totalling over 3,000, the congregation was the biggest ever to assemble in the rural church where the first class relics of the French saint were on display.
“There was a throng of people out the road trying to park their cars. They were walking for a couple of miles to get to the church. We had never seen anything like it in Dromin,” said local woman Anne Mockler, a native of Ashford, Killeedy who has been living in Dromin for over 30 years.
“The people who were waiting didn’t mind waiting. They kept the rosaries going and the prayers. There was no talk – it was just a volume of prayers,” she explained.
The first class relics which are permanently based in Dublin were on display beside the relics of St Therese’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin.
“They came from far and near. They came on crutches, they came in wheelchairs, people helped them in. It was the most moving experience,” continued Anne whose own son, Fr John Mockler, arranged his visit home from Rome to coincide with the event.
“Lots of people wonder and ask why Dromin, because there’s nothing in Dromin. Well, I would say, Therese loved priests, and top of her mission was to pray for priests and Dromin has more priests ordained per parish down the years than anywhere you could ever find...and nuns as well,” Fr Mockler pointed out.
“Even at the moment there are so many still active. I was the last one ordained there but there were so many before me,” continued Fr Mockler who was based in Rome for six years before returning to Ireland to the parish of Foynes/Shanagolden for a number of years. He has been based in Rome for the past three years.
Other priests in attendance on the day were Fr Tony Mullins, PP Dromin-Athlacca and administrator of the Limerick Diocese, Fr Peadar de Burca from Kilmeedy and Fr John Daly from Athlacca.
Therese Martin was a 24-year-old Carmelite nun when she died in the French town of Lisieux in 1897 of TB. Yet within 28 years, she was pronounced a saint by the Pope. The secret of St Therese’s sanctity was what she called her “little way” - a precept of performing infinite small acts of kindness. Her simple formula, recounted in her best-selling memoir, Story of a Soul, became a pattern of life for countless ordinary folk.
Many miracles and “graces” are attributed to her intercession and the majority of pilgrims arrive with requests to help sick relatives and friends. Members of the public arrived in Dromin church holding a single red rose in their hands and left with the same rose which was now a blessed memento from their day. “Every age came. They placed their hands and the rose on the casket. I felt something when I put my hands on the casket, I could feel it going through me. I could feel the peace,” Anne Mockler continued. “I got rose petals 11 years ago when the relics came to Limerick and I still have them”.
To keep the crowds moving through the church, visitors were encouraged to visit the nearby Holy Trinity well. “When they left the church, they went to the Trinity Well which is only half a kilometre back the road. The water is flowing around St Bernadette and they all took off their shoes and went barefoot and said rosaries,” Anne added.