For almost 1500 years, very little light has been shone on Saint Caireac Dergain, founder of one of the most important Early-Christian convents in Ireland in Clonburren, Moore, but recently a special mass was held to honour her feastday.
A daughter of sovereigns Connal and Briga Dearg, Caireac came to the area a young woman with a mission to establish an Abbey and an order of sisters to minister to the locals.
A princess of Airgíalla, one of the three kingdoms of Ulster, she was reared in Rath Mor, Tyrone to the Colla de Crioch tribe along with her three sisters Fanchia, Lochina, and Darina who have all since become Celtic Saints. It was agreed that the then King would allow her the lands of Clonburren to build an Abbey and, as was tradition in those times he granted the manpower and finances to build a fort in Clonburren.
The Abbey was then established in the region and became a school for the daughters of the wealthy, many whom widows joining the order to work the lands and tend the sheep. The nuns spent their days administering to the sick and embroidering alter cloths and wall hangings.
They copied the gospels and answered calls to prayer several times a day from dawn to dusk. Holy water was used to bless the houses, the sheep, their food and themselves. They taught the daughters of royalty including Rincinn, the niece of King Carbre Crom. Additionally the Queen of UI Maine and her ladies would often donate clothing and materials to the sisters every year.
Visiting Saint Enda on the Aran islands, Caireac founded two churches and a nunnery on Inishmaan. She would later die and be buried on the island, recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters as 577 AD. Although her remains are unfound, it is possible that in 578 some of her bones were brought to her principal Abbey in Clonburren, as part of a tradition in lifting a saint’s remains from the ground and bringing them to a place of honour.
On February 9th, local couple Xandra and Padraig Kilduff hosted a special mass in Moore to commemorate the local saint. Held by parish priest Fr. Michael Molloy along with a local choir of school children and musicians, the Saint’s life was commemorated. Padraig marked the occasion by presenting a painting he created of Caireac Dergain.
The saint’s day is marked every year on the nineth of February to celebrate the patron who contributed a great deal to local history and the early Christian Church.
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