On Garland Sunday, 25th July 1982 in the presence of approximately 1000 people gathered at Kilcummin, the Bishop of Killala, Most Rev. Dr. T. McDonnell blessed the new Shrine erected in honour of St. Cuimin. After the Blessing, the Bishop assisted by Canon William Moyles P.P. Ballycastle and Fr. Mark Diamond P.P. Lacken, celebrated the first mass at the Shrine.
Where did it all begin? Ancient tradition tells us of the Holy Man, Cuimin who came to Kilcummin in the 7th century, built a Church there and blessed the well nearby. This Church is still standing and the water from the Holy Well is still flowing and St. Cuimin himself lies buried in the sacred ground not far from this Church.
Over the centuries Kilcummin became a famous place of prayer and a pilgrimage took place on the last Sunday of July, known as Garland Sunday. Even as late as the beginning of this century, great numbers of people were coming to Kilcummin for Garland Sunday. They came from the neighbouring parishes and particularly from Erris.
However a decline set in and fewer and fewer people were coming for the big day. The decline continued until Fr. John Gilroy became Parish Priest of Lacken in 1960. During his years as P.P. up to 1974 there was a notable revival of devotion to St. Cuimin. Fr. Gilroy was renowned for his love of St. Cuimin and he always carried on his person a little portion of the holy clay from the Saint’s grave.
After Fr. Gilroy came Fr. Thomas McNicholas, who was Parish Priest of Lacken until 1979. To him is due the credit of actually celebrating the Station Devotions at Kilcummin on Garland Sunday which began to attract an increasing number of pilgrims. Then in 1979 there was a special upsurge of devotion for in that Summer the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, Cardinal Thomas O’Fiach, came to Kilcummin as a pilgrim and joined the new Parish Priest, Fr. Mark Diamond in the traditional station prayers. Garland Sunday at Kilcummin has never looked back since then. In 1980 and in 1981, in response to a local appeal, Fr. Diamond offered the Mass at the Holy Well under a temporary shelter or tent and performed the traditional Station Devotion.
At a parish meeting late in 1981, it was decided to build a permanent Altar and Shrine where Mass could always be celebrated no matter how inclement the weather. And so the appeal went out for support for this venture and the donations began to flow in. The actual building work began in the Spring of 1982 and was completed in time for Garland Sunday. The decision to build came from the people themselves and all the donations came freely from the generous people of Lacken and Kilcummin and almost all the labour was given freely in honour of our local Saint.
Many favours and cures have been granted during the centuries and the blessed clay from St. Cuimin’s grave has been sent to the ends of the earth.
By Maeve Dunne