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Ballygarvan Church Bicentenary Celebration

Writes Leo McMahon

A Mass of thanksgiving for 200 years of faith and worship at the Church of Mary Mother of God, Ballygarvan was celebrated on Ascension Sunday, May 29th by Bishop of Cork and Ross Most Rev Fintan Gavin assisted by parish priest Very Rev Christy Fitzgerald and Deacon Rev John Guirey before a large congregation.

A welcome prior to Mass was extended by Parish Assembly chairperson, Mary O’Halloran who pointed out that Ballygarvan church was the second of three bicentenaries in the parish: Most Holy Heart of Mary, Goggin’s Hill in 2021 and Sacred Heart, Ballyheada which will take place in 2023. Ballygarvan’s commenced with the lighting of the Trinity candle by Patsy Galvin, chairperson of the parish finance committee.

Church reader Ena Spillane then gave commentary on the bringing of gifts to the altar symbolising 200 years of nurturing faith in Ballygarvan. These were the oil of catechumens (Baptism) by Lisa, Michael and Lily O’Sullivan; the first parish register by Kitty Butler; the oil of chrism (Confirmation) by Freya and Alan Bateman; a rock symbolising the faith journey from Mass Rock to church by Maura Holland; and a sample of rope that sectioned off benches in the church during the Covid pandemic representing hardship and Catholic Emancipation, by Mary Watkins.

Pic: Siobhán Russell

Sunday scriptures were read by Peter Fleming and Mary McCrum and Deacon John and the psalm sung by choir member Frank Lehane. In his homily, Bishop Fintan congratulated everyone involved with the bicentenary. He stressed that they were commemorating not just a building but a faith community gathered there and nourished by the Eucharist.

It was right to celebrate, not only to remember a nostalgic past with pride, but also to prepare another generation to carry the faith and mission of the church forward. He welcomed the presence of so many young families in the congregation.

In stressing the need to specially support young people, Bishop Gavin said the challenges were real with eight parish priests and three curates aged over 75 in the diocese stepping aside from full time duties this summer as well others in religious orders. However, just as happened between Jesus and his disciples at the Ascension, the baton continued to be passed on to every baptised person to live and spread the good news of hope and faith to future generations. In that regard, the diocese was already planning and consulting with people on how to better share resources across parishes.

Prayers of the faithful was read by Eoin Curley, Freya Bateman and Kallum Healy, three children from the parish who received the sacrament of Confirmation this year. The offerings of bread and wine were brought to the altar by Alice Duggan, Evan Ashman, Marina Santos and Lar Healy and the offertory collection by Helen O’Donovan. Maire Ni She and Dan Hurley were eucharistic ministers.

There was beautiful singing by Ballinhassig Parish combined choir conducted by Henrietta O’Meara. Tom Ryan was organist and accompanists were sacristan Eamonn Long on violin and Ger Murphy on accordion.

After communion John L O’Sullivan outlined the interesting history of Ballygarvan Church which was preceded by a mass rock and thatched chapel.

On behalf of the parish priest, thanks were expressed by Deacon John to everyone in the parish involved with the bicentenary. These included the above mentioned plus church cleaners, painters, teachers, sacristan Eamonn, John L O’Sullivan and fellow historian Tom Ryan.

He pointed out that the ancient chalice raised by Bishop Gavin at the Mass honoured those who funded and built Ballygarvan church and the priests who served the faithful of the area, often at great peril, dating back to penal times well over 200 years ago.

Thanks to the flower group with their stunning arrangements and art work by primary school pupils, the church and grounds looked resplendent and after Mass, the bishop unveiled a plaque to mark the bicentenary. On another positive note, Ascension Sunday marked the ringing after a gap of 17 years of the church bell following its restoration.

Excellent fare was served later in the primary school. Refreshments were organised by parishioners and members of the assembly which comprises Mary O’Halloran, Aoife Barry, secretary; Mary Keigher, Mary O’Donovan, Oonagh O’Sullivan, Marie Corcoran, Audrey O’Leary and Deacon John Guirey. The large attendance included local Cllr Ben Dalton O’Sullivan, school principal Mairead Coakley and parish native John O’Mahony who travelled from Galway.

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