by Jimmy Rhatigan

Thousands of organ donor families and transplant recipients will tune in at home and abroad to watch the Irish Kidney Association’s third virtual and 37th Annual Service of Remembrance & Thanksgiving. 

The inter-faith Service was pre-recorded by Kairos Communications at Newman University Church, Street, Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, for broadcast on RTÉ One and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra (LW252) on Sunday, October 30 at 11am.

The Irish Kidney Association is asking the public to tune into RTÉ and actively participate in this years’ virtual service, including the symbolic Service of Light ceremony. 

It is hoped that in households the length and breadth of the country and beyond, a candle will be lit in memory of deceased donors who gave the gift of life. 

For many organ donor families this service has become an anniversary to remember their loved ones, and for transplant recipients, the opportunity to honour and give thanks for the wonderful gift of life they have received. 

Before the global pandemic, the annual event attracted a congregation of close to 2,000 people. 

For the past three years the service has been pre-recorded with a small gathering of participants due to safety issues around Covid-19, particularly for transplant recipients and other vulnerable people. 

When the first pre-recorded virtual service was held in 2020, a total of 64,000 homes nationwide tuned in to watch its first viewing on RTÉ and it was streamed in 24 other countries. 

Last year after the service broadcast there was a lift in donor card requests, with a 43% increase in average weekly requests. 

Deirdre Roche Doherty, Graignamanagh with her husband Brian and daughters.  Pic: Dylan Vaughan


Twelve families of deceased organ donors participated in the filming of this year’s virtual service, to remember loved ones who became organ donors following untimely deaths. 

Nine transplant recipients who received different deceased donors’ organs (including heart, lung, liver, kidney, and pancreas)also participated. 

They included a five-year-old twin boy who received a kidney transplant this year, a lung transplant grandmother in her late 60s, a 45-year-old mother who received the gift of life three times in her lifetime, and another mother who is enjoying the successful longevity of a kidney transplant she received 32 years ago.

The service, an occasion for sadness and joy, includes clergy, humanists, as well as organ transplant recipients, organ donor families, and medical professionals involved in organ donation and transplantation. 

Music and song are interspersed between poignant symbolic processions and meaningful scripture, reflections and expressions of gratitude, selflessness, and faith in humanity.       

Since its inception 37 years ago, the service has become a hugely important event in the calendar of members of the organ donation and transplant community. 

The confidential database for organ donor families is held by Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI).  

The Book of Remembrance, a ‘Roll of Honour’, has been an integral part of the service since its inception with the names of organ and tissue donors carefully inscribed by calligrapher Annette Daly from Glenageary, County Dublin for the past 37 years.  

A letter by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, patron to the Irish Kidney Association, is read aloud at the service by Rebecca Maher, from Castleknock, Dublin, mother of deceased organ donor infant Matilda Quinn who passed away in 2015. 


In an extract from the President’s message, Rebecca reads: “I join you all in expressing my support and thanksgiving for the great gift of organ transplantation, which has transformed and enriched so many lives – allowing new possibilities and new opportunities for recipients and their loved ones”. 

 Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin & Glendalough Dr Michael Jackson gives the Homily and Rev John Kelly reads the Gospel on behalf of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell.

Chief Celebrant is Rev Gary Chamberland, Newman University Church. 

Soprano Dr Sharon Lyons fulfills the role of Cantor with her beautiful singing supported by Musical Director Dominique Cunningham who directs members of the Newman University Church choir, the Vocare Ensemble

The first and second readings at the Service are by Ms. Dilly Little, Surgical Director, National Kidney Transplant Programme, Beaumont Hospital, and Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist Professor Atif Awan, CHI Temple Street. 

Other members of the medical profession taking part are Bernie Nohilly, an organ donation nurse, and Professor Jim Egan, Director, Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI) and Consultant Respiratory & Transplant Physician at The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

Narrating is kidney transplant recipient Eddie Flood, the newly appointed national honorary chairman of the Irish Kidney Association, from Killucan, County Westmeath. 

Following the service broadcast on RTÉ One and RTÉ Radio One Extra (LW252), it will be available to watch on the Irish Kidney Association’s website www.ika.ie 

 At the beginning of the pre-recorded Service there are contributions from two Kilkenny mothers Deirdre Roche Doherty and Yvonne Cassidy who were filmed in Graignamanagh. 


Yvonne Cassidy who lives in Paulstown, County Kilkenny, honoured her late husband Sergeant Pat Cassidy’s wishes to be an organ donor when he passed away nine years ago.  

Deirdre Roche Doherty from Graignamanagh, a mother of two, is grateful to the families of three organ donors as she received a combined heart and lung transplant in 1996 followed by two kidney transplants, in 2009 and 2017. 

Yvonne’s son Cian who was 15 only when his father died, has followed in his father’s military footsteps.

In the opening procession of the Service, Cian, in full army uniform, carries the cross to the altar.

An uplifting aspect of the Service sees five-year-old kidney transplant recipient Liam O’Connor from Artane,Dublin and his twin brother Daniel bringing their favourite toy wrestlers to the altar

Six months ago Liam’s young life was transformed by a kidney transplant he received from a deceased organ donor. Accompanying  the boys in the gifts procession is their father Patrick.

Other organ donor families recorded carrying out processional and reading roles at the Service include:

It is the third year in a row for the service to be held virtually and pre-recorded by Kairos Communications, due to safety concerns for immunocompromised transplant recipients and others vulnerable to Covid-19.  

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