Our history

Translation by Ekaterina Smirnoff

A picturesque and peaceful little town of Stradbally, Co. Laois in the heart of Ireland is truly beautiful and serene. Rolling hills, ruins of ancient churches and castles dating back to 6-12th centuries are all in close proximity. One of the local hidden gems is the Orthodox Church of St. Colman of Oughaval built in the Russian Orthodox architectural style.
It all began in 1990 when Mr. Adrian Cosby chose to convert to Orthodox Christianity and to erect a church in his local town. His ancestоrs on the father’s side are the ancient and famous Cosby family that had settled down in Stradbally more than 450 years ago. The Cosbys were instrumental in setting up the Protestant community in Stradbally [1].
One may ponder why Mr. Cosby had made these decisions. But God’s ways are inscrutable… Adrian Cosby was a close friend and a frequent guest of a pious Orthodox family, and perhaps their sincere faith had touched his soul. There were no Russian Orthodox churches in Ireland at that time while the total number of Orthodox Christians (mostly Russian emigrants) was approximately 250 people.
Some time later Mr. Cosby wrote to His Eminence the Most Reverend Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) expressing his wish to erect the new Orthodox church. Archbishop Mark expressed his consent immediately.
At first Mr. Cosby chose the most appropriate place for the future church. Later the land was bought by Mr. Andrew Bond, now the deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and was granted to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On November 12, 1992, Archbishop Mark held the rite of consecration of this land plot. The future church was named after the Irish saint Colman of Oughaval. St. Colman of Oughaval is the holy patron and protector of these lands. He was the founder of the Orthodox monastic settlement in the 6th century AD in Stradbally.[2]. In the same year of 1992 architect Michael Hoadley had put together the layout design, and the new benefactors started collecting donations for the construction. By June 1992, thanks to Mr. Bond’s efforts, the first donation had been collected.
Finally, in March 1993 the construction works began. The stones used for the future church had been brought by Mr. Cosby specifically for that purpose. With God’s help Mr. Cosby cooperated with the local Irish builders: Paddy Dilon, Tomas Doogy and his nephew. By May 1993 the foundation of the stone church had been laid and erection of the walls had begun.
On July 9, 1993, Archbishop Mark visited Ireland and the first Holy Liturgy took place in the church under construction. The ancient miraculous Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign had been brought to Ireland specifically to let all the present venerate the sacred object of Orthodox Russia. Before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy Archbishop Mark consecrated the parishioner Andrew Bond into the reader. After that, during the final part of the Archbishop’s visit, Mr. Cosby was christened.
The construction process lasted from May 1993 to December 1994. By that time the roof, cupola and interiors were still to be completed. Church building was made in the shape of the ship. As the funds were scarce, it was probable that construction would have lasted for a very long time, but God’s helping hand was generous. The two Orthodox Dubliners, Rory McKeon, baptized as John, and Mary McCabe, were providing financial support to the construction. Ms. McCabe donated a substantial sum of money. For us Mary and Rory are the true embodiment of Christian love and sincere concern about people. They have always shared their love generously with every parishioner. Mary lives in Dublin, she is 87 years old, a unique person and a true friend to many people, both Irish and Russian. Rory had passed away on September 21, 2008, on the day of the Nativity of the Virgin.
Mr. Cosby and his son, Thomas Cosby made with their own hands the church windows and doors. Many church objects had been donated by various people. Two solid candleholders, the lecterns, benches and cupboard, were given by Mr. McKeon while Mr. Bond generously donated the lecterns covers, altar cloth and many church books. Mr. Daniil Aktumanis and parishioners from Belostok (Poland) gave two church banners. Archpriest Father Ilya Limberger (Stuttgart, Germany) had donated a double-sided holy icon depicting St. Nicolas and Elevation of the Holy Cross courtesy of Elizaveta and Anastasia Osadchevs. This gift had been blessed by His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart (the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia).
On May 28, 1994, on the St. Colman of Oughaval’s commemoration day, the first parishioners and guests had gathered to celebrate the patronal festival in Stradbally. Archbishop Mark served the Divine Liturgy in the new church and shared the joy of St. Colman’s feast. After the Liturgy the first christening of baby Elisabeth Khoreva took place.
By December 1994 the local builder Peter Graham had completed the erection of the pyramidal church roof. The church cupola was designed by Mrs. Veronica Rossal and built by Mr. Cosby and his son Thomas. In June 1994 the main cross and the cupola was elevated. Mr. Cosby himself was raised on the crane to place the holy cross on the cupola. It was a joyous and inspiring moment.
Meanwhile the beautification of the Stradbally church went on. Metal Holy Gates and the altar doors had been made by Mr. Andy Scully. The icons for the central and side altar doors had been brought all the way from Greece and placed in the church by Mr. Cosby. The floors had been laid by Dmitry and his son Vyacheslav Slavashevskys. The fence and the gates around the church appeared later.
Building a church has always been a great and holy occupation. Church is the true ship of salvation where a man receives spiritual help, support, sees friendly faces and learns to live in the modern world, resist evil and temptations and do good.
The first parish priest was Father Peter Baulk, English by origin. Despite his severe illness, Father Peter has been regularly visiting Ireland for 10 years to give guidance to his new congregation. His spiritual guidance and the ability to convince and console were invaluable for the parishioners, mostly emigrants with troubled souls and difficult past, who had found themselves away from their homeland and flooded the church. Father Peter had the rare gift of finding the right word of love and support for every person in need. All of us who were privileged to know Father Peter are extremely grateful for his work. We thank the Lord for this particular mercy to us for the wonderful spiritual parent who had helped us during the years of finding ourselves and our Faith.
Unfortunately Father Peter’s illness later prevented him from visiting Stradbally often enough. So in 2005 Father Paul Elliot was sent for help. Father Paul was truly out of this world, kind and compassionate. He had combined the church service with principal’s responsibilities in the school for children with disabilities and special needs.
After the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church Outside of Russia took place in 2007 the priests from the Patriarchate of Moscow started visiting St. Colman’s church and holding regular church services.
In the period from October 2010 till June 2011 Father Nikolay Evseev acted as the parish priest. From 2011,Father Georgy Zavershinsky has started to serve in our church . The number of parishioners had grown and the parish life had shaped up.
Nowadays the Stradbally church is firmly placed on the map of Orthodox Ireland and the parish life is flourishing. You are very welcome to come to our church and partake in our life, our prayers, in the confession and taking of the Holy Communion.
We are grateful for your kind prayers, donations and help.

God bless!



References

[1] O’Halon J.C., O’Leary E. and Lalor M., (1981), History of The Queen’s County, pp. 323-327.
[2] Kennedy J., (2003), The Monastic Heritage and Folklore of County Laois, p. 37.