The present St Joseph’s Chapel was built in 1996 when our Parish Priest was Fr Owen O’Donnell and our Curate was Fr John Travers. The opening and dedication of the new chapel took place on 8th December 1996. The then Archbishop of Armagh, Sean Brady, officiated.

On 7th December 2021, at the Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Parish Priest Fr Paddy Hughes marked the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the new St Joseph’s Church.  Included on the altar was an impressive display of 25 candles. ( See Photograph )

The new chapel replaced the chapel built in 1855 when Fr Bernard Murphy was Parish Priest and Fr Arthur McGurk was Curate. Fr Murphy’s chapel stood on the site of what is now Our Lady’s Grotto in St Joseph’s Graveyard.

The gratitude of the Parishioners to Fr Murphy for providing them with a new Chapel is reflected in the following extract from a letter which the Parish Committee wrote to him on their behalf.

“It is but a short time since you commenced the building of our beautiful Parochial Church of St Joseph, now happily completed; we can, therefore, in some measure, appreciate the zeal and munificence that enabled you to finish this very commodious structure and leave it free of debt. You laborious zeal in this arduous undertaking can only be known to those who witnessed the untiring energy with which you completed the work to its successful completion and now with its sweet-toned bell summons us to prayer and sacrifice…….”

The letter informs us that the grateful parishioners presented Fr Murphy with a “ car and harness”.

There appears to have been an earlier Chapel built in 1755 but little information about this exists

(Courtesy of “Kildress: Rolling Back The Brambles”)


As well as overseeing a new chapel in Killeenan, Fr Murphy was anxious to get a new chapel built in Dunamore. There was already a chapel in Dunamore which was described as a small plain building. It was situated just below the present St Mary’s Graveyard.

In a letter to his parishioners in 1863, following the opening of the new St Joseph’s Chapel in Killeenan, he said “ …..we may very soon behold another spacious edifice peering over the quiet hamlet of Dunamore….”

In a fitting testament to the hard work and dedication of Priests and people the new St Mary’s Chapel was erected on the spot where we find it today. By this time the Curate in the Parish was Fr. John McCartan. The dedication ceremony was carried out on 17th March 1872 by the most Reverend Dr McGettigan, Primate of All Ireland.

In the late 1970s, when Fr John Mackle was Parish Priest and Fr Sean Hegarty was Curate, renovation work was carried out to St Mary’s.

Following major renovations and refurbishments, which were instigated during Fr O’Donnell’s time as Parish Priest and brought to beautiful fruition under the guidance of his successor, Fr Paddy Hughes, St Mary’s Chapel was re-dedicated by Cardinal Sean Brady on 10th February 2013.
(Courtesy of “Kildress: Rolling Back The Brambles”)


“ A missionary at heart who wanted to bring the good news until his very last breath.”

These words spoken by Archbishop Eamon Martin at the Requiem Mass for Fr Owen O’Donnell perfectly captured the essence of a much loved and respected priest who was of his people, for his people and with his people.

On Wednesday 7th June 2023 Kildress Parishioners bade a sad farewell to Fr O’Donnell, former Parish Priest and Pastor Emeritus.

Fr Owen came to the Parish as Administrator in 1986 and became Parish Priest in 1987.  From then until his retirement in 2005 he served his Parishioners with dedication, humility and devotion.  His door was always open to those with concerns and worries.  His good humour and wit were never far away and his homilies, whilst never lengthy, were always thought-provoking and memorable.

Even after his retirement in 2005, Fr O’Donnell continued, unselfishly, to minister to the Parish needs whenever required, something which Fr Paddy Hughes greatly appreciated.  Until the outbreak of Covid curtailed his activities, Fr Owen continued to celebrate Mass every Saturday evening with the residents of the local Riverdale Nursing Home, something that was much appreciated by all concerned.

Owen O’Donnell was born on 16th November 1929 to Owen and Lena O’Donnell of Brackaville in the Parish of Coalisland. Whilst growing up in the family home in School Lane, along with his sister Mary and brothers Barney and Henry, God obviously had picked him out for the priesthood.

Leaving Primary School he continued his education at Rockwell College in Cashel, Tipperary, before entering Kimmage Manor in 1951 to begin his studies for the Holy Ghost Missionary Order.

Ordained on 14th July 1957 Fr O’Donnell immediately set off for his missionary work in Nigeria, where he remained until 1965.  In 1966 he went on loan to the Archdiocese of San Antonio in USA.

By 1973 he was back in Ireland, to work for the Archdiocese of Armagh, taking up the post of curate in the Parish of Magherafelt in Co Derry.  In 1980 he became curate in the Parish of Faughart in Co. Louth.  Whilst in Faughart, in 1981, he was officially incardinated into the Archdiocese.  Come 1986 he moved to what would be his final post in the Parish of Kildress.

Throughout his priestly life Fr O’Donnell touched many lives, not only in Kildress but also in Nigeria, USA, Magherafelt Parish and Faughart Parish.  There can be no doubt that each of those lives benefitted from his care, devotion and pastoral qualities.

As well as seeing to the spiritual needs of his Parishioners, Fr Owen was very astute in seeing to the temporal affairs of the Parish. Whilst he was Parish Priest in Kildress, he oversaw the construction of a new Parochial House in Killeenan and undertook the impressive replacement of St Joseph’s Church. By the time of his retirement, he had already set aside substantial funding for the refurbishment of St Mary’s Church, a project which was brought to a most pleasing conclusion by Fr Paddy Hughes.

The affection and esteem with which Fr O’Donnell was held in Kildress were demonstrated by the many people who helped to look after him in his declining months, something which Monsignor Curry, Bishop Router and Archbishop Martin all acknowledged during the Masses for the wake and funeral. And the huge numbers that turned out on three successive days to pay their respects, both at the organised ceremonies and  privately, were further proof of the respect that this prayerful and caring priest engendered.

We in Kildress thank God for Fr O’Donnell’s time with us and we pray that he is now enjoying his eternal reward for a life of unstinting service.  May he rest in peace.