Éogan of Ardstraw
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Feast||23 August (Catholic)|
|Patronage||See of Derry|
The name Eoghan means "born under the (protection of the sacred) yew tree". The yew was believed to be the oldest tree. Its wood was hard and difficult to work, used for war and peace, for domestic vessels and door posts, for spears and shields. It had to be treated with care because its berries are toxic. The name Eoghan then already had a religious significance in pagan Ireland.
Eogan was born in Leinster. According to his Vita, Eoghan was born the son of Cainneach and Muindeacha. His mother is said to have been of the Mugdorna of south-east Ulster. These people seem to have had some contact with the Laighin (who gave their name to Leinster), to whom his father Cainneach belonged. Since this is the area where Christianity first reached Ireland it may well be that Eoghan's father's family had been Christian for some time. As a boy he studied at Clones, and it was from there that he was carried off to Britain by pirates, and subsequently he was taken captive to Brittany, together with Cairbre of Coleraine and St. Tighernach, who is best known as the founder of the abbey of Clones, Co. Monaghan. On obtaining his freedom, he went to study at St. Ninian's Candida Casa. Others said to have studied with Ninian include Finnian of Moville. He may also have spent some time in Brittany (Armorica). Returning to Ireland, he made a foundation at Kilnamanagh, in the Wicklow hills.
After presiding over the Abbey of Kilnamanagh (Co. Wicklow) for fifteen years, he settled in the valley of Mourne (Co. Tyrone), his mother's country, about the year 576. It is reasonable to assume that Eoghan came north not just as a missionary to pagans, but also ‘as a pilgrim for the sake of Christ’ in exile. It was not necessary to go abroad to do this. Due to the division of Ireland into a grid of independent states or tuatha, exile meant leaving one’s own and taking one’s chances in another tuath. Without personal resources one had no honour or personal standing outside one’s own tuath. He was followed by many disciples including his kinsman, St. Kevin of Glendalough, who completed his studies under this saint. So great was the fame of the sanctity and learning of St. Eoghan, at Mourne, that he was consecrated first Bishop of Ardstraw about the year 581.
His Vita contains a number of miracle stories. While going through the forest Craoibheach (modern day Cruagh, a townland near Wicklow) he sang fifty psalms and when his attendant answered "Amen" at the end of the Lord's Prayer the trees all around also answered "Amen". It also mentions his close relations with Tighernach of Clones and Cairbre of Coleraine, which might indicate an alliance of monasteries threatened by the dominance of Armagh.
It is difficult to give his chronology with any degree of exactness, but the Irish annalists give the date of his death as 23 Aug. 618. His name is generally Latinized as Eugenius, but the Irish form is Eoghan (Owen).
St. Eoghan is the patron saint of the See of Derry. His feast is celebrated on 23 August.
- Grattan-Flood, William. "Sts. Eoghan." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 17 Nov. 2014
- "Saint Eugene, Patron of the Derry Diocese", Parish of Ardstraw East
- Devlin PP, Rev. Kieran. "Saint Eugene, Patron of the Diocese", Derry Diocese Archived 4 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Duffy, Patrick. "Saint Eoghan or Eugene of Ardstraw 6th century (Patron of Derry Diocese)", Catholic Ireland, 23 August 2012
- O'Hanlon, John. Lives of the Irish Saints, Vol. VIII, "August 23", James Duffy and Sons, Dublin