Archdeacon Cavanagh was parish priest of Knock at the time of the Apparition until his death in 1897. He was known to practice special devotion to Our Lady and in the early days of Knock Shrine he worked tirelessly to serve the ever-growing number of pilgrims.
Born in 1821 in Annaghdown (better known as Anach Cuain), Co. Galway, Bartholomew Cavanagh was one of 13 children. He was ordained in 1846 for the Archdiocese of Tuam and his first appointment was to Westport. He was appointed Parish Priest of Knock-Aghamore in 1867.
Some months before the Apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh made known to his parishioners his plan to say one hundred masses for the souls in purgatory which our Blessed Mother wished released. These masses were completed shortly before the Apparition.
The Archdeacon’s workload greatly increased following the Apparition. His number of daily masses and confessions grew, his correspondence increased greatly, he kept a diary of cures and gave regular interviews.
One correspondent wrote: ‘We drove to the cottage of the Parish Priest and found him in his garden. Archdeacon Cavanagh is reputed along all the countryside as a man of simple piety, gentle manners and a modest retiring disposition. This character is justified by his appearance. He at once makes a favourable impression…’
Daily Telegraph Correspondent 1880
Archdeacon Cavanagh died on 8th December 1897 and was laid to rest in Knock Parish Church. The memorial tablet erected by his parishioners to his memory reads (translation from Latin):
‘Pray for the soul of the Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh, Archdeacon of the Chapter of Tuam, and parish of Knock-Aghamore, whose fame, on account of the extraordinary sanctity of his life and his devotion to the Mother of God, was diffused thus far and wide. Unwearying in the Confessional, assiduous in works of piety, he died, full of years and merits, December 9th, 1897, R.I.P. ‘