Thursday, 25 May 2017

Celebrating Ascension Day
and an interesting family link

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge ... Philip Comerford and Mary Harvey were married here on 5 October 1907, and the wedding was conducted by Canon Harry Vere White (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Ascension Day, and at 8 p.m. this evening [25 May 2017] I am presiding and preaching at the Ascension Day Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

A little earlier this evening, at 7.30 p.m., Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Ballsbridge, Dublin, is celebrating its 150th anniversary as a parish. Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin is presiding at the 150th anniversary service and Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh, a former curate, is the preacher. Clergy have been invited to robe in white stole and there will be a reception immediately afterwards in the Order of Malta hall next door to the church.

Saint Bartholomew’s is undergoing major restoration work, and the newly restored sanctuary decorations recently emerges from the coverings and scaffolding with some of the new lighting scheme.

The church features next month [June 2017] in my monthly column in the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory), when I write about the Wyatt family, a unique architectural dynasty with origins in Weeford, near Lichfield, and who made an interesting contribution to Irish architecture. Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880) was the architect of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, which was consecrated by Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench of Dublin on 23 December 1867.

Later this year, the parish is holding a fundraising dinner on Friday, 20 October 2017 to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary. The dinner is taking place in the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge, the choir will provide the entertainment, and Senator David Norris is the after-dinner speaker. Seating is limited to 120 people, and tickets cost €100 per person.

I am sorry to miss this evening’s anniversary celebrations, as I have often provided Sunday, mid-week and holiday cover in Saint Bartholomew’s over the years. But I was surprised in recent days to also uncover an interesting family connection with this beautiful church.

Saint Bartholomew’s is celebrating 150 years as a parish church this evening

The Revd Philip Comerford (1909-2006), who died in Saskatoon, Canada, over 10 years ago on 21 December 2006 at the age of 97 after a long and full life, spent 10 years working as a missionary in Paraguay, before spending a long and fruitful life in ordained ministry in Canada.

Philip’s father, also Philip Comerford, and grandfather Philip Comerford, are three generations in the one family who worked on the Irish railways. The grandfather:

Philip Comerford (1848-1902) was born ca 1848. He was a railway signalman and a railway porter. He married Margaret Mooney (born ca 1859), and they lived in Leixlip, Co Kildare (ca1880-1882) before returning to Dublin, where they lived at 31 Constitution Hill (1882), Ashtown (1884-1886), 104 Townsend Street (1888), 2 or 3 Grant’s Row (1890), and 37 Wentworth Place, now Hogan Place, off Erne Street (from 1894). Philip Comerford died in the Adelaide Hospital, Dublin, at the age of 53, on 17 February 1902. Philip and Margaret were the parents of at least seven children, including three sons and four daughters:

1, Philip Henry Comerford (1880- ), who was born in Leixlip, Co Kildare, on 18 May 1880.
2, James Francis Comerford (1882- ), born at 31 Constitution Hill on 1 February 1882, aged 19 and a butler in 1901.
3, Patrick Joseph Comerford, born in Ashtown on 2 April 1884, a messenger, aged 16, in 1901, listed in the Census returns as Church of Ireland.
4, Mary Josephine, born in Ashtown, Co Dublin, 1886, baptised in Chapelizod Roman Catholic Church, 1886 (sponsors: John Faley and Louisa Layne), appears to have died in infancy.
5, Elizabeth (‘Tillie’), born 1888, baptised in Saint Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, Westland Row, in 1888 (sponsor: Sarah Mooney), living in 1901, aged 12, at school, and listed in the census returns as a member of the Church of Ireland.
6, Mary Frances, born 15 September 1890, baptised in Saint Mark’s Church (Church of Ireland), 9 November 1890, and in Saint Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, Westland Row, 1890 (sponsor, Margaret O’Leary). Aged 9 in 1901, and at school, she was listed in the census returns as a member of the Church of Ireland.
7, Kathleen, born in 1894, and baptised in Saint Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, Westland Row, in 1888. She is not listed in the 1901 Census returns.

The eldest son:

Philip Henry Comerford (1880-), the eldest son of Philip and Margaret (Mooney) Comerford, was born in Leixlip, Co Kildare, on 18 May 1880. He was a railway clerk and living at 37 Wentworth Place when on 5 October 1907, in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, he married Mary Harvey of 11 Bath Avenue, daughter of John Harvey, engine fitter; she was born in Manchester.

The wedding was conducted by the Vicar of Saint Bartholomew’s, Canon Harry Vere White (1853-1941), later Archdeacon of Dublin (1917-1918), Dean of Christ Church Cathedral (1918-1921), and Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe (1921-1933), and a former Irish organising secretary of the Anglican mission agency, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now USPG). The witnesses at the wedding were William Harvey and Sarah Harvey.

This Philip Henry Comerford was working with Irish Railways and the couple were living at 56 Temple Buildings when their son, also Philip Henry Comerford, later the Revd Philip Comerford (1909-2006), was born there on 23 August 1909. At the 1911 census, the family was living in Upper Dominick Street, Dublin. The father continued to work with CIE, and the younger Philip Comerford also worked as a joiner and draftsman with Irish Railways before leaving Ireland to work in as a missionary in Latin America.

From 1938 to 1948, Philip Comerford worked in the jungles of Paraguay with the South American Missionary Society. There he developed an interest in animals, particularly snakes, and he amassed a specimen collection that he kept for almost 50 years and was only too happy to introduce it to anyone who dared ask.

Philip returned to Ireland in 1948, and on 22 September 1952, in Saint Mary’s Church, Dublin, he married Maude Montgomery, of 22 Shamrock Street, off Blessington Street, Dublin. The wedding was conducted by the Revd Norman David Emerson, later Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (1962-1966).

In 1954, Philip and Maude became the parents of twins, Valerie and Henry Montgomery Comerford. In 1961, Philip and Maude emigrated to Canada with their children and he entered Emmanuel College, Saskatoon.

After two years of training, Philip was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada, and was ordained priest the following year.

Philip served in parishes in the Dioceses of Saskatchewan, Athabasca and Saskatoon. His longest appointment was in the parish of Radisson, Maymont and Borden where he served 11 years, and he lived a life that was full of adventure, purpose and conviction.

Philip died in Saskatoon, Canada, on 21 December 2006. He was predeceased by his wife Maude in 1997. He was survived by his son, the Ven Dr Henry Comerford, his wife Sara and their children, Aaron Comerford (fiancée Mandy Tempel) and Shannon; and his daughter, Valerie, her husband, Bob Pankratz and their daughters, Tiffany and Shenelle.

His funeral service took place in Saint John’s Anglican Cathedral, Saskatoon, on 28 December 2006, and he was buried the Radisson Cemetery later that afternoon.

Archdeacon Henry Comerford (right), with Aaron and Sara at their beehives ... Sun River Honey sells to food processors and honey packers in Canada and the US (Photograph: Brian Cross)

Archdeacon Henry Montgomery Comerford of Saskatoon, the Dublin-born son of the Revd Philip Comerford is an Anglican priest in Canada and an acclaimed artist who has worked in a challenging missionary context in Saskatchewan as Rector of Saint George’s Church, Saskatoon.

For many years, as the Revd Canon Henry Comerford, he was the Rector of Saint George’s, which was established as an Anglican mission in 1906 the same year the City of Saskatoon was created. Originally a small 18 by 24 ft, uninsulated, shack-like building on the far western edge of the city, Saint George’s has grown to become an inner-city faith centre with room for more than 200.

From its beginnings, Saint George’s was known for its outreach, mission support and community involvement. These characteristics continue to be the hallmarks of the present activities of Saint George’s Parish. In 2006, Saint George’s Church marked its centennial with a year-long series of events and celebrations, and the church’s history, A Century of Ministry, was published in early 2007.

Dr Comerford completed his DMin at Saint Stephen’s College (University of Alberta) in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1998, writing his dissertation on ‘Vessels of Evocation.’ In his doctoral dissertation, he set out to give “artistic expression to the contemporary evolution of Christian awareness, towards a post-orthodox Christianity.”

Drawing on the works of Paul Tillich, Carl Jung, Martin Buber, and others in his dissertation, he described recovering creative foundations of ministry, suggested a theology of ministry for creativity and healing, and considered the fundamental relationship between artistic process and theological development.

Recently, the Bishop of Saskatoon, the Right Revd David Malcolm Irving, appointed the former Rector of Saint George’s, then the Revd Canon Dr Henry Montgomery Comerford, as Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of Saskatoon. He retired in 2016. Henry and his wife Sara continue to run a family business producing honey, Sun River Honey. They have two children, Aaron Comerford and Shannon.

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