A special return for the Moderator

25.10.2023 | Moderator, Church Life, Harvest, Congregational News

One of the most important roles that a Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has, is to encourage the Church and its members, as they preach most Sundays in congregations across the length and breadth of the island – and this past weekend was no different. Along with his wife Karen, Right Reverend, Dr Sam Mawhinney, spent the weekend in County Cork – home of his very first congregation – and home to 108 year old Mrs Kitty Jeffery, Ireland’s oldest person.

On Sunday morning Dr Mawhinney preached in Aghada, Ireland’s most southerly Presbyterian congregation and Trinity Presbyterian Church in the heart of Cork city. After both morning services, where he preached on his theme for the year, ‘Confident in Christ’, he spent time with their minister, Rev Richie Cronin and his family. In the evening he returned to Fermoy for a Harvest Service.

Speaking about his weekend, Dr Mawhinney said, “It was great to be back, especially in Fermoy where Karen and our boys spent ten and a half very happy years. It is always different when you return somewhere you have such close associations with, but it was something that we had been looking forward to since we were asked to go.”

Dr Mawhinney was called to the linked Home Mission charge as Fermoy and Cahir in September 1997. Fermoy Presbyterian itself was formed 160 years before that in 1837 and the Moderator was the congregation’s 10th minister and, the first to be called as a full-time minister to the congregation since 1960.

“There was a great family atmosphere to Fermoy and it was good to hear of people who had come to faith and had been nurtured and discipled well under my successor, William Montgomery, and are still going on with the Lord,” Dr Mawhinney said.

“It was good to see the work that is being done in Trinity Cork, Aghada and Fermoy, three small, but fruitful congregations. As a Dublin minister now, I had forgotten how far they were from the central headquarters of the Church, at Assembly Buildings in Belfast. Like many ministers, Richie must travel quite a distance between his churches on Sunday’s and during the week. It gave me a fresh appreciation for all of our ministers who serve the Lord in rural congregations, and I wholeheartedly commend their dedication and hard work in ministry,” Dr Mawhinney said.

After preaching in Aghada, along with Rev Richie Cronin, and one of the elders, George Jeffery, Dr Mawhinney paid a visit to Mr Jeffery’s mother, Kitty, who will be 109 years old next month. Born in Glenville in north County Cork, three months after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, her father was the farm manager of Glenville Manor. Originally from a Church of Ireland family, on marrying her husband George in the late 1940s, they worshipped in Aghada Presbyterian where he had attended.

“My mother’s side of the family are all long-lived, with some of her cousins going on into their nineties, so long life definitely comes from that side of the family,” Mr Jeffery explained, one of Kitty’s four children.”

Mr Jeffery continued, “It is incredible to think of the times that she has lived through, as she remembers the Civil War and the Economic War of the 1930s, even the death of Michael Collins when she was very young. Her father died when my mother was 16 and as their home came with my grandfather’s job, the family had to move to Cork. To this day, she is still very emotionally attached to Glenville.”

“She has always had a quiet, but deep faith, and in days gone by she was very active as a member of the Mothers’ Union and the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. She also worked as a secretary for various people. While she sleeps and eats well, this last while as seen her confined to her bed, but she’s in good enough form and had been looking forward to seeing the Moderator. She’s remarkable,” he said.

Talking about his visit, Dr Mawhinney, who is minister of Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in Dublin, thanked the family for their hospitality. “Karen and I were warmly welcomed, and it was plain to see the family’s love and care for their mother. It is a remarkable thing to have met someone who has lived as long, and has witnessed what we would consider to be ‘history’, especially the times that led up to the founding of the Irish State. I prayed for her and would like to wish her every blessing for her 109th birthday next month,” he said. 

After his visit to Mrs Jeffery, Dr Mawhinney visited Middleton, which had been badly affected by extreme flooding following Storm Babet during the week.

Photos (1) The Moderator Dr Sam Mawhinney, in his former pulpit in Fermoy Presbyterian Church where he preached at the Harvest Service last Sunday (2) Rev Richie Cronin, minister of Trinity Cork and Aghada Presbyterian Churches with the Moderator and Ireland's oldest person, 108 year old Mrs Kitty Jeffery (3) the Moderator is pictured in Fermoy Presbyterian Church with (left to right) his wife Karen, and Sharon Montgomery, wife of Dr Mawhinney's successor and the current minister of Fermoy Presbyterian, Rev William Montgomery.

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