St Mary’s Celebrates 175 years

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St Mary’s Church on Haddington Road is to celebrate its 175th anniversary on November 4th of this year.

The church, which belongs to the surrounding parish, and has been a hotspot of social and historical significance since medieval times, will take its quartoseptcentennial bow with a host of events that will continue long after the primary date itself.

The details of the anniversary events have yet to be fully finalised, but will certainly be widely supported locally, given the church’s prominence in the area, with schools and community groups hopefully offering their services. Father Michael Collins of St Mary’s Church spoke to NewsFour about the upcoming festivities.

“We intend to organise the local schools and local businesses and we hope to invite choirs,” Fr Michael said. “The days of priests organising things are over!”

Looking back on the history of the church and its role in the community, Fr Michael spoke of the importance of the parish and the nature of changing modern times, a worthwhile idea considering that we now live in a world where around 50 per cent of global parishes do not have weekly services for lack of personnel and resources.

He believes that the church breeds a great sense of solace and belonging, a fact borne out of the regular contributions given by parishioners. In some cases, many people have left bequests for things like stained glass windows for the church.

“A parish is where there’s a church for worship that welcomes people,” said Fr Michael. “One great thing about us is there is a great sense of continuity, which is built by modest people, many of whom give small amounts regularly.”

St Mary’s Church has come a long way since its origins. In 1835, when the building of the church commenced, the area was a new developing suburb, with new streets being laid out routinely by agents of the Pembroke Estate. The modern parish of St Mary’s came to be in 1876 at a time when the parish of Irishtown and Donnybrook was subdivided.

The previous parish had been established in 1787 and comprised Haddington Road, Ringsend, Irishtown, Sandymount and Donnybrook. The church was built a decade after Catholic Emancipation, and was one of the first large Catholic sanctuaries to be built in the new era.

The parish also featured very heavily in the historical accounts of the 1916 Easter Rising. Perhaps the most notable of these incidents was the attack on the Beggar’s Bush barracks led by then Commander Eamon De Valera. Snipers were set up on Haddington Road railway bridge and Boland’s Bakery on Barrow Street, which were used as vantage points for the assault.

Refurbishment of the church has only recently been completed, something which Fr Michael Collins believes to be very timely indeed due to St. Mary’s upcoming special date. He said that “by good fortune the church was refurbished in time to enjoy the anniversary.”

By Craig Kinsella