A Tale of Three Priests


Michael H. Carroll


After my return from the Year 2000 Carroll Family Reunion in Thorndale , PA , USA , I was honoured to meet Father Charles O'Connor, whose grandfather was Charles Connelly of Carrownacib townland, in the parish of Killursa near Headford in Co. Galway . Father Charley, as he is affectionately known, was at that time a priest in the Diocese of Kansas in the United States and he was visiting his family in Headford, Co.  Galway in September 2000. Charles Connelly, his grandfather, and Henry Carroll, my grandfather, were first cousins by virtue of the fact that their mothers ( Kitty and Bridget Lally respectively ) were sisters.

Father Charley's great-uncle was Rev. John J. Connelly, first pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Wilmington , DE and who in turn was a nephew of Rev. John J. Lally – a brother of the aforementioned Kitty and Bridget Lally. He served as pastor in the Diocese of Scranton for over forty years.

Father Charley related a wonderful story to me about his priestly ancestors.

In 1896, on the occasion of Rev. John J. Lally's 25th year as a priest, his nephew Rev. Connelly presented him with a beautiful chalice. It was obvious he held his uncle in high regard. We know also, after Rev. Lally retired from his parish in 1911, he moved to Wilmington and shared the rectory at St. Thomas ' with Rev. Connelly. Both were subsequently buried close to each other in the church grounds.

After Rev. John J. Lally's death in 1919, the chalice passed back into Rev. John Connelly's possession. He decided to bring the chalice to Ireland , which he did and gave it as a gift to the parish of Killursa, the place of his birth. In 1922, during political upheaval and civil war, the priest’s house at Headford was burnt down by the 'Black & Tans' ( auxillary police brought in by the British to quell republican guerilla activity ). The parochial house in Killursa parish however escaped the same fate. The chalice was 'stored away' for safe-keeping and was placed in the attic of the house at Claran.

Years went by. Rev John Connelly died in 1925, various parish priests came and went at Killursa. The chalice in the attic at Claran was long forgotten.

A few years ago, a major renovation of the parochial house in Claran was undertaken and in the process of clearing the attic, the chalice ( still wrapped up safely ) was discovered. It had lain undisturbed for almost eighty years. As luck would have it, the chalice had been inscribed by Father Connelly and on his next visit to Ireland the then presiding parish priest at Killursa gave the chalice to Rev. Charles O'Connor, the great-nephew and great-great-nephew of the two priests.

Father Charley brought the chalice back to Kansas with him and it is one of his most prized possessions. He now only uses it to celebrate Mass on family or special occasions. The chalice is as beautiful and functional as ever. The chalice has recently been brought back to Ireland again where I have had the honour of viewing it and photographing it for posterity. It is now over 110 years old!

Thus is the tale of the chalice and three priests, Fathers Lally, Connelly and O’Connor spanning three different centuries!


Michael H. Carroll
June, 2007