Friday 29 March 2024

Tipperary priest celebrates milestone 90th birthday with parishioners and friends

Last Saturday night, all roads led to Cahir House Hotel for a birthday celebration for Fr Matthew Knight of Rockwell College, who reached 90 years on March 13. 

Fr Knight was recognised for his lifetime of dedicated devotion to the pupils and families of the Cahir School’s catchment area. 

The celebration drew a large crowd, including former students, parents, and grandparents from Cahir's former Vocational School and Coláiste Dún Iascaigh.

Local clergy, parishioners and friends from Cahir and surrounding areas also attended. Everyone who was there shared a desire to express gratitude for how Fr Knight carried out his pastoral mission over the last 50 years or more in the Cahir area.

Fr Matthew Knight grew up in Rush, a tiny village in north County Dublin. His studies brought him to St McCartan's in Monaghan where he later became a Holy Ghost Father.

In 1962, he went on a mission to Nigeria, specifically to Port Harcourt, where he spent nearly six years of service. 

He returned home, but the Biafran War changed his plans to return to Nigeria, so he was redirected to the United States, where he spent two years in St Petersburg, Florida, doing parish and school work. 

Upon his return to Ireland, Rockwell College in Tipperary appointed him to a position, where he remains today.

In the early 1970s, Fr Knight was employed by the vocational school in Cahir, where he taught English and Religion. 

This was supposed to be a temporary position, but to the benefit of the Cahir School, it became a permanent appointment shortly after.

In 1997, he joined the staff of the newly amalgamated community college, Coláiste Dún Iascaigh, as Chaplain, and his connection to the town, its surrounding area, and its people has endured ever since.

Saturday night's event celebrated Father Knight's 50 plus years of unwavering service, demonstrating the significant impact he has had on many lives in the surrounding areas.

Aside from the classroom he officiated at numerous weddings and baptisms, building long-term relationships with former pupils and colleagues. 

Fr Knight's compassion and support also extended to times of sadness within the community, where his empathy and support for those in need was always present.

In his address to the large crowd on the night Seamus Lahart, a former colleague of Fr Knight stated, "This celebration speaks volumes about the high regard, respect, and gratitude those present hold for his unwavering dedication. The committee faced a challenge in organising this surprise celebration but this large attendance indicates your admiration and appreciation for your 50 years of service to the community."

There were many well-wishers in the Cahir House Hotel on the night and many pre-recorded messages from past pupils and friends who now live abroad. 

Tanya Walsh, a former pupil and close friend of Fr Knight captured the atmosphere in the room in her message from Australia stating, "Fr Knight, I think you know how much you are loved, and if not, I’m telling you now that so many people love you and I hope you can feel that here tonight!”

Fr Knight thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations and as always, he could recall fine details of previous occurrences in his former school days which he shared with many of his former students, friends, and former colleagues with whom he conversed throughout the night.