‘Misinéir’ Árann nó ‘Fr Connolly’ a thugtaí i gConamara ar an seanmóirí cáiliúil seo. Dúirt Micheál de Brún, Easpag na Gaillimhe, faoi uair: ‘I have no doubt that Fr. Conneely is the best Irish preacher in Ireland and I doubt very much if he has an equal in the pulpit when preaching in English.’ Thug sé níos mó misiún ná aon sagart eile in Éirinn agus thugadh misiúin in Huddersfield agus i Londain a bhfreastalaíodh muintir Chonamara orthu. I gCill Mhuirbhigh, Árainn, a rugadh é ar 24 Nollaig 1893. Ba iad Micheál agus Barbara Conneely a thuismitheoirí. Chaith sé tamall ag múineadh Gaeilge i mBaile Uí Mhatháin, Co. an Longfoirt, agus in iarthar Chontae Luimnigh. Ansin rinne sé staidéar i gColáiste Mungairit. Ghlac sé móideanna Ord an tSlánaitheora ar 8 Meán Fómhair 1917 agus oirníodh é ar 23 Meán Fómhair 1923.

In Idir mná: scríbhneoirí ban Ros Muc, 1995 deir Meta Uí Mháille (‘Father Connolly’) go raibh fíorfhaitíos ar dhaoine i Ros Muc roimhe; gurbh é a chuir deireadh le ceol sna tithe agus le déanamh an phoitín. Tá tagairtí dó ag Micheál Ó Conghaile in Conamara agus Árainn 1880-1980: gnéithe den stair shóisialta, 1988—ar ceann díobh an rann ‘Mo ghrása Fr Connolly / A chuir deireadh leis an ól / Is a chuir an diabhal i bhfarraige / I dteach pobail Leitir Móir’, ag Tomás Laighléis in Seanchas Thomáis Laighléis agus ag Peadar Mac an Iomaire in Filí Bhaile na mBroghach.

Scríobh comh-mhisinéir leis sna Slánaitheoirí cuntas air (atá i seilbh an oird) agus dúirt gurbh iad na daoine úd agus na sagairt féin nár thuig urchóid an phoitín in aon chor is mó a d’fhaigheadh locht ar mhodhanna Uí Chonghaile: ‘I remember once talking to a grand Catholic teacher of one of these areas and he told me that not infrequently did children come to school and fell on the floor as a result of poteen.’ Le cead na n-easpag, shocraigh sé nach mbeadh cead faoistine ag lucht déanta poitín mura ngeallfadh siad go poiblí os comhair na haltóra nach ndéanfaidís a thuilleadh é: ‘There is an infinity of stories and anecdotes about Fr Conneely in his poteen campaign. In one place there was a fisherman who had a number of stills. He refused Fr Conneely to give up his poteen trade and apparently Fr Conneely had failed. But the day came for the blessing of the fishing boats. And in his boat was the poteen King. Fr. Ryan, the other missioner, was standing on a high rock with surplice and stole and ritual. Fr Conneely was there and he raised his two hands to stop the blessing from reaching the poteen man. And the result was that the man in question would not dare to go out in that boat which was denied a blessing. It would mean that he would be deprived of a living. He was afraid that if he went out in that boat that he would never again place a foot on dry land. So he came to the mission. He had an interview with Fr Stephen and he brought all his stills and poteen to be destroyed. When that was done he made the solemn promise before the altar and then went to confession and never returned to the poteen again and ever afterwards he held Fr Conneely in high esteem and was eternally grateful to him for what he done for him.’ Is dóigh gurb é an Conghaileach atá i gceist sa scéal apacrafúil faoin misinéir a d’iarr ar aon duine nár thug a stil go clós an tséipéil a lámh a chur suas. ‘Go lobha Dia an lámh sin!’, ar seisean ansin leis an bhfear a rinne rud air. Ach ba é a dúirt an stiléir, más fíor: ‘Lobha sí léi!’. Sa chuntas céanna sin ag a chomh-Shlánaitheoir tá an abairt seo i dtaobh a phearsantachta: ‘A very shrewd man said of Fr Stephen that from the moment he appeared at the sacristy door on his way to the pulpit he was preaching before he opened his mouth—for such was his striking personality that the people said within their hearts “Here comes a man with a mighty apostolic message”.’ Is cóir a rá freisin gur cosúil nárbh é an poitín is mó a bhí ag déanamh tinnis dó ach cúrsaí scannail: ‘I will never forget his sermon on scandal. It is really a masterpiece and that is not my own view alone. It is the view of many excellent Redemptorist preachers.’ D’éag an tAthair Ó Conghaile i Luimneach 28 Lúnasa 1965.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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