Shrine of Saint Oliver Plunkett: Drogheda, Ireland
About Saint Oliver Plunkett:
For many of us, it is hard to imagine the degree of persecution that the Catholic Church endured during the 17th and 18th Centuries in both England and Ireland. Oliver Plunkett was born into a noble family in County Meath, about thirty miles west of Drogheda, which is about 30 miles north of Dublin, in 1625. He studied for the priesthood in Rome, at the Irish College that had been co-founded by Father Luke Wadding and was ordained in 1654.
He returned to Ireland on his appointment as Archbishop of Armagh. By this time Cromwell had conquered Ireland, it was against the law to be a practicing Catholic and priests were being executed when found. Sir Oliver Plunkett remained in Rome after his ordination and taught. Finally, in 1669, he was appointed Bishop of Armagh and set foot on Irish soil again in 1670. At this time the persecution had subsided somewhat and he set about restoring the ravaged Church, embarking on a plan of Confirmations, Ordinations and education–going so far as build a Jesuit college in Drogheda. Records show that he confirmed over 48,000 in a four year period.
He maintained his duties in Ireland in the face of English persecution, but ran afoul of the government when he objected to certain parts of the so-called test act (which would have him pledging allegiance to the Anglican Church). As a result, his college was leveled to the ground and he was forced in to hiding.
Trumped-up charges were produced implicating him in a non-existent plot to overthrow the government and he was eventually arrested in 1679 in Ireland, and then later sent to stand trial in England, since the authorities naturally felt that could not get a guilty verdict in Ireland. It was, in fact, difficult to get one in England as well, since the first trial ended up in a no-bill. The second one, where he was not able to call witnesses or defend himself properly, was basically a kangaroo court and found him guilty of promoting the Catholic faith.
He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681, and became the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England. Oliver Plunkett was beatified in 1920 and was canonized by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday, October 12th, 1975, the first Irish saint in almost 700 years. His Feast Day is celebrated on July 1st.
About Saint Peter’s Church in Drogheda:
In early autumn of 1979, Pope John Paul II spent three days in Ireland. One of the chief places he visited was St. Peter’s Church, and the Shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett, where he preached peace and forgiveness.
As one pilgrim told us: “upon entering the Church my eyes were immediately drawn to a glass case containing the head of St. Oliver Plunkett, in remarkably good condition”.
It is a place of pilgrimage for thousands each year. Mass is offered daily. On the first Sunday of July there is an annual celebration of Saint Oliver Plunkett.
Traveling to Drogheda:
Drogheda is about 35 miles north of Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. There is convenient and frequent rail service from Dublin (about one hour travel time).
Address: West Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland
GPS coordinates: 53° 42′ 55.1844” N, 6° 21′ 8.8416” W
Tel: +353 (041) 983 8537 (Parish office)
Click here for the official website of the Oliver Plunkett shrine in Drogheda