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Class of ’88 – 30 Year Reunion Report

It’s difficult to understand what the IRFU was thinking of when it invited the All Blacks to the Aviva Stadium on November 17. Didn’t it know that was the Saturday of the Class of 88′ 30th reunion? Come on! No one thought the Test between the No. 1 and 2 in the world was a warm-up for something else, but that’s what it was. 

Getting in early

The reunion lasted a bit longer than the 80 minutes it took for Ireland and Joe Schmidt to down New Zealand. Though the main gathering was on November 17, an advance party stormed Adare a night early and went to dinner at the 1826 restaurant, opposite the Dunraven Arms, the venue for the reunion dinner on the Saturday.

On the Saturday it was up early and out to Glenstal to gatecrash another anniversary – the mass marking Br Cyprian’s 25 years as a monk, though it was nice of Abbot Brendan to mention us in his introduction. After lunch in the senior and inter ref we roamed the school and the grounds, noting the impressive upgrade of facilities and stopping for the obligatory homage to the Munster Schools’ Senior Cup, which the SCT won so memorably earlier in the year. It was also good to see some familiar faces such as Frs Denis, William, Philip, Simon, and Christopher. When we reached the pitches, some just had to try to recreate scenes from matches in the distant past – Truff, the posts still didn’t move!


The dry weather lent itself to photo opportunities around the chapel lake and bridge, and in front of the castle. Shane Vaughan operated his drone expertly to provide some memorable images from the day.  

We regrouped at the monastery reception, before taking in the retail experience that is the shop – and very impressive it is too. It is a long way from the monks’ CDs and jars of honey, which was about the extent of the offering in our day. Brown Thomas watch out! 

Looking back

Then it was back to the Dunraven Arms and dinner, but before that, the match (see below). A dominant Irish performance meant we sat down in good spirits – apart from those that were already down us – for an evening of fine food and drink, and reminiscing with the aid of an album of over 300 archive photos dating back to 1982.  Many of the images were seeing the light of day for the first time 


Dinner included other special moments: the letter and poem Br Patrick, as he then was, wrote for our leaving dinner in 1988 got another airing 30 years later and Peter O’Meara, who was unable to attend due to filming commitments in Prague, recorded a video message for the class which was played at dinner

After dinner, it was time for more catching up in the bar, with Paul Hegarty entertaining us at the piano, though a sing-song failed to take off.  

Given the action-packed couple of days and nights, it was a credit to us all that we appeared for breakfast the following morning as early as we did. Then the drift away happened, as travel connections had to be made and appointments kept. The weekend happened too quickly. 

Thirty one made it to the reunion, including travellers from afar, such as Rolf Hogan from Moscow, Jaime Ordovas from Majorca and Henry Farrell from Washington, as well as our very own monk, Br Luke (John) McNamara. Richard Tierney, Stephen Walsh and Matt Bruton were the event organisers extraordinaire. 

Onwards again

However, the reunion would not have been the same without a bit of drama. After all, this is the class that stretched the school’s disciplinary strings as far as they would go and back again. In the same week as the reunion, Andy Beatty, our Western warrior, was caught in a medical misadventure. Thankfully, the medics got to him in time and he is recovering well. He was even spotted with an empty pint glass in front of him not long afterwards. We’re not saying he drank it but… 

Here’s to the next 10 years – though no doubt, we will meet again before then – and continued good fortune to the Class of ’88. 

Here is a link to photographs

Report by Ralph Cunningham
Photos by Stephen Walsh

Abbot Brendan’s Homily from Abbot Celestine’s funeral

Abbot Celestine was a man of one book and that book was the psalter. It now rests on his coffin, as he would very much have wished. His homilies were jam-packed with quotes from the psalms, his conferences were almost always on the psalms and the advice he dispensed came straight from the psalter. He made the words of the psalms his own, “like a weened child on its mother’s arms…” The very first time I met Celestine as a young student in Rome I came away thinking that I had just met a walking talking psalter.

          Austin Brian Martin Cullen was born the year this monastery was founded, 1927; he attended our school and entered the novitiate after a year in UCD on 15th September 1946 at the age of nineteen. Fr Bernard O’Dea was the Prior at that time and gave him the name Celestine. On the face of it he was not very appropriately named. Pope Saint Celestine V was Pope for just over five months in 1294 and became the first Pope in history to resign. He was manifestly unsuited to the task of the papacy, lacking in worldly wisdom and the ability to deal with complex human situations. Our Celestine could not have been more different, as we all know.

          More probably he was called after Abbot Celestine Golenvaux, our founding Abbot from Maredsous, a sign of what was to come. Celestine cherished the years he spent in our school and the school always held a special place in his heart, together with all those who studied there under his watchful care and his group of devoted ladies who were the mothers of those boys and who have been so good to him over the years. All held him in great esteem and affection. In the monastery Celestine was teacher, headmaster, Abbot and Abbot President, chaplain in Kylemore and confessor and spiritual guide to a great many people. At every one of these offices he excelled, but as a spiritual guide he had a particular gift. All sorts of very different people found in him a willing ear and a wise guide. His passion was to introduce others to what he called the “spiritual path”. For Celestine, a monastery, must always be a place where people can come easily, a place where they can find God.

          Lest anyone think that Celestine was a jack of all trades, let me add that he had absolutely no aptitude whatsoever for technology or machinery of any kind. Even the domestic toaster proved beyond him! We have all had the experience of being summoned to assist with his photocopying, which meant that you go and do it for him, and on arriving at the photocopier discovering that he had enlisted three other members of the community to do the same job. That too was Celestine.

          As Celestine advanced in years his experience became more and more that of psalm 18, “I love you Lord my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour”. This became his reason for living. In later life his work as headmaster, Abbot and Abbot President was done and he threw himself wholeheartedly into his quest for the inner life and gave most generously of his time to help others. He wrote copious letters in his illegible hand offering support and advice. On Saturday afternoons he sat in the monastery parlour hearing confessions, sometimes long beyond the allotted time, listening to people and introducing them to another dimension of reality. The Word was made flesh and that Word was the cornerstone on which our brother Celestine built his life. Introducing others to the Word of God was his greatest joy and lifelong passion. It sustained him to the end and was his most prized possession. This love of the Word was the sermon his life preached most eloquently to us and the abiding memory he leaves us.

          The final chapter of his long life was written in Millbrae Lodge Nursing Home and we thank them for their loving care for Celestine. As his health declined he was in need of this extra care. He found this last chapter difficult and he missed his monastery and monastic life. The psalms, however, remained his friends and he told me that he still found his Lord in them after all these years.

O where can I go from your spirit, or where can I flee from your face? If I climb the heavens, you are there. If I lie in the grave, you are there…

If I say, “Let the darkness hide me and the light around me be night,” even darkness is not dark to you, the night is as clear as day.

          Celestine has now entered into that light where the night is as clear as the day and where the darkness is no longer dark. We accompany him with our prayers and ask the Lord that he not disappoint our brother Celestine in his hope. May he rest in peace.