Celebrating 150 years of St Mary’s church

Lauren, Megan and Geraldine McAvey, Mags McGarry, Ger Clarke, Margaret Quinn, and Breda Clarke at a pilgrimage walk to the ruins of the old church in Newtownforbes, organised as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of St Mary's Church. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
A year-long series of celebrations is under way to mark the 150th anniversary - or sesquicentennial - of St Mary’s, the parish church of Clonguish.

A year-long series of celebrations is under way to mark the 150th anniversary - or sesquicentennial - of St Mary’s, the parish church of Clonguish.

Opened in 1864, the church was built on a site in Newtownforbes which was donated by the Earl of Granard, and was designed by the noted architect, James Joseph McCarthy.

“The Countess of Granard paid his fee of £75,” explained Parish Council Secretary Ann O’Brien. “He was a pupil of Pugin and his design reflected a strong Victorian gothic influence.”

Ms O’Brien continued by saying that the church took three-and-a-half years to construct, with its dedication ceremony taking place on December 4, 1864.

“The bishop, Dr Kilduff, performed the dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception and the Bishop of Down and Connor preached the sermon. The church was renovated in 1974 and again in 2009.”

While the church’s anniversary technically doesn’t occur for another nine months, parishioners have already begun to commemorate it.

In January, “the parish baptism registers dating from 150 years ago were on show in the sanctuary at all masses on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord,” Ms O’Brien explained. This was followed with a a St Valentine’s Day mass, “a special mass for all couples, engaged and married, and celebrating special anniversaries this year.”

The latest event held to coincide with the sesquicentennial of St Mary’s is a mission with the theme of ‘Celebrating Community’.

According to the parish priest, Fr Ciaran McGovern, “it’s a time to come together to reflect on our lives, the gospel, and to celebrate our faith and our community”.

Two Redemptorist priests, Fr Denis Luddy and Fr Laurence Gallagher, will preside over the mission, which opened last Sunday, March 9, and will continue until this Saturday, March 15. During the course of the mission, there will be daily weekday masses at 7am and 10am, and evening missions at 8pm. The mission’s closing ceremony will take place at 7pm on Saturday.

Other commemorative events include a passion play, which will be incorporated in the the Good Friday ceremony at St Mary’s, and in June the annual Cemetery Sunday mass will take place, which will be followed by a Family Day at Clonguish GAA Centre.

More events will be announced and the celebrations will culminate in a special anniversary mass on December 4.