It sets back about 50 yards from the road between Newbridge Village and Ballinamore Bridge. On the other side of the road, in the midst of a rich green pasture runs the River Shiven with the old Daly’s corn mill on its banks. Killian school, built in the late 1950s to replace the original building, had been vacant for several years because of a declining youth population in the parish. Now in a matter of 48 hours or so it had been restored to its original pristine state by the dynamic efforts of the parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church Newbridge, with the urging of native, Father Louis Lohan, now retired from his ministry in the southern USA. My sister, Kathleen, and my brother, Johnny, had completed their primary education in its classrooms and my schoolmates and I had learned our first Gaelic football tricks on those hallowed grounds. It would now serve as a center for refugees from Ukraine and its rooms and grounds would again ring with the laughter of children. Today, the sovereign country of Ukraine is being wrecked by war and its people savaged by Vladimir Putin and his cohorts. We in the so called free world watch this ongoing savagery from the shelter of our living rooms and ask, “Why? Why did this have to happen?” It did not have to happen if the free world had taken preemptive action months ago, but to put it bluntly, our leaders have no blankety blank.
So our Ukrainian brothers and sisters have become sacrificial lambs for the rest of the world. It is like when Jesus Christ was condemned to death and one man declared that it is “better that one man die than the whole nation.” There has been much talk about the rules of war, what we can do and what we can’t do, and what has been done has been a little too late.
As I sit here in my living room, watching the palm trees sway in the wind and hearing the National Park carpenters put a new roof on Kalaupapa’s post office building, my mind’s eye can see those country folks of Newbridge parish where I grew up, working on Killian school, preparing it for the refugees from Ukraine. They are serenaded by the song birds in the adjacent bushes, by the lowing of cattle in the surrounding pastures and the bleating of newborn lambs in the lush green fields. They remember that their ancestors were once refugees, driven “to hell or to Connaught.” They know what it is to be sacrificial lambs.
Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.