On the 7th October, National Tree Day, we reflected on the history of the Oak tree, a key part of Ireland’s heritage. Those of you who have visited Solas Bhride and walked the meditative walk may have chosen to sit by the Oak Grove. You may have wondered about the significance of the Oak tree for Solas Bhride and for Kildare.
St. Brigid founded her famous double monastery under an Oak tree in Kildare town in the 5th Century, hence the name Cill Dara, Church of the Oak. Centuries later, Bishop Daniel Delaney founded his congregation of Brigidine Sisters on 1st February 1807 in Tullow, County Carlow. To symbolise the link between the ancient 5th Century monastic order of St Brigid and the newly founded Brigidine Sisters, he took an Oak sapling from Kildare Town and planted it in Tullow on February 1st. 1807. That tree stands proudly today, a majestic reminder of his legacy over 200 years later.
Keeping the Legacy alive – all paths lead to Kildare Town
On the bi-centenary of the Brigidine Order in July 2007 two gatherings took place simultaneously. A small pilgrim group of Brigidine Sisters and friends, led by Fr Paudie McLoughney, St Patrick’s walked c.50kms from Tullow to St Brigid’s Well carrying seven Oak saplings from the original/majestic Oak tree planted in 1807. They converged with an international pilgrim group at St Brigid’s Well in Kildare Town for a ritual celebrating St Brigid, her vision and values for today.
A Piper then led the pilgrim groups to the site for the new Solas Bhride Spirituality Centre on Tully Road, where the Oak saplings were symbolically planted with a view to providing continuity to the legacy and future vision. Those chosen to plant the Oak saplings represented the Brigidine life past and present, the pilgrims who had come and who would come to Kildare in the future, friends, associates and co-workers, musicians, artists and poets and all those who would create and work on
the new Centre.
The Oak Grove
Eight years on, those 7 saplings together with an additional thirteen saplings were planted in the grounds of the newly opened Solas Bhride Spirituality Centre to mark Earth Day 2015. They were planted to form Solas Bhride Oak Grove by representatives from the local community, artists, Brigidines worldwide, Afri and Cairde Bhride, all who carry the Brigidine tradition in their own way into new horizons.