Our Notre Dame Connection

This is a love letter from The Killian Homeplace to Notre Dame’s O’Connell House as we both celebrate our 25thAnniversary in 2023.  The seeds for both dreams were sown at the 1996 Notre Dame/ Navy Game in Dublin. We all revisited our Irish roots and realized that we had been away too long. And the wheels of progress started to turn. 

Thomas F. Gallagher Jr. at the 1996 Notre Dame Navy Game with his daughter, Joan
Thomas F. Gallagher Sr. and Family in Freeland, Pennsylvania in 1943
TFG's 1935 ND Yearbook Picture

The Gallagher family connection with Notre Dame began almost 100 years ago.  Joan’s uncle, Peter Gallagher, left Pennsylvania in 1924 to begin his freshman year in South Bend. The journey took 24 hours.  Peter had never been any further from home than Hazleton, Pennsylvania in the first 18 years of his life.  But his father had promised their mother on her deathbed that their sons would never go into the mines. He knew that education was the only way out.  His brother James graduated in 1932, followed by Thomas, her father, a proud member of the Class of 1935. 

In memory of her grandfather, Joan endowed the Thomas F. Gallagher Sr. Scholarship to give students from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania the same opportunity to receive a college education.  There is a bond, difficult to put into words, that becomes part of our heritage.  And so it is with our family. The depth of the connection to Notre Dame has never faltered.  My daughter, Caroline, graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2013 and was lucky enough to participate in the Fighting Irish undefeated season during her senior year.  The Thomas F. Gallagher Sr. Scholarship honors the memory of my grandfather whose faith, love and determination made it happen against all odds.

Father John Jenkins with Joan and Christopher at Notre Dame’s Recognition Weekend

Caroline spent her year abroad at NUI Maynooth in Co. Kildare from September 2010 to May 2011. It was during this time that great progress was made at the Killian Homeplace in pulling all the construction together in Fermoyle.  The finishing touches were completed in 2012 and everything was ready. But ready for what?

Joan and her husband, Christopher Clark, at O'Connell in Dublin for the 2012 ND Navy Game

The answer came in January 2013 when Tom Gibbons from the  ND Development Office reached out to Kevin Whelan, head of ND’s Global Gateway in Dublin. Joan met Kevin and his team in Fermoyle a few weeks later  and a plan was made to host the incoming Dublin summer interns for a weekend of reflection, including a sports day with primary school children and the local community.

For The Killian Homeplace the dream was realized when the first group of summer interns walked through the fields on June 7, 2013.  The birthplace of Luke Killian in 1799 was brought back to life for the first time in many decades.  The inaugural group of students were full of life, full of promise and couldn’t wait to see what Ireland was all about.  The Lanesborough community was just as excited to meet the students of the Fermoyle National School for the Sports Blitz, followed by Mass on the Shannon Pier and an evening of Irish music.  The weather was brilliant, and the result was a beautiful start to the interns’ time in Ireland and a wonderful memory for all of us.

Notre Dame students after mass in June 2013 on the Shanon Pier in Fermoyle

Later that year, Joan Killian Gallagher and The Killian Homeplace won the All-Ireland Pride of Place Award in Derry.

And for nine more years, with a break during Covid, we felt an enormous sense of pride and gratitude to be able to welcome Kevin Whalen, Eimear Clowry Delaney, Maggie Arriola, and the Notre Dame interns to our little corner of the world in the hidden heartland of Ireland. 

The Pride of Place Award outside of The Killian Homeplace

The students left a lasting impression on the community in a very positive way. The O’Brien corner shop proudly flew the Notre Dame flag as the bus stopped in the afternoon for their quintessentially Irish 99 vanilla ice cream cones.

Read Reflective Weekend in Longford by Emily Fortner below

Wonderful message received in November 2016 from Peter McGinley ND Class of 2015:

“I was part of the Notre Dame Group  to visit The Killian Homeplace in summer 2014. I felt moved to thank you again for opening your family’s home to us.  My roommate, Patrick Valencia,  and I are both in law school now in DC and we still talk about that weekend often – it wasn’t just one of the best weekends of that summer, but one of the best of our entire lives.”

Summer of 2014

The next chapter of the story gives the Fighting Irish family the opportunity to connect to their own family’s history.  The Killian Homeplace has a new mission, a new direction guiding people through their own journey of discovery.  The TKH  team is ready, willing, and able to help you find your own spot, the place where you can feel the spirit of your own ancestors and meet your Irish friends and families.  Let’s get the Notre Dame flag flying in every county of Ireland!

In the wild flower field inside the Ring Fort
Summer of 2015
Summer of 2016
Summer of 2017
Summer of 2018
Summer of 2019
Summer of 2022