Some words from Fr. Gerard Breen following the reopening of Clogherinkoe Church which marked the end of renovation works for the three churches in Balyna Parish.
A large congregation of joyful worshippers assembled for the re-opening of Clogherinkoe Church on 2nd of October 2010. It was a hugely important and historic day in the parish of Balyna, marking the day that building works to all three churches of the parish were completed in full. With regard to the date, the Hand of God may have had a part to play in the church being re-opened on the 2nd October 2010. Amazingly, that date happened to be the 5th anniversary of Fr. Barry O’Connell’s death. I say ‘amazingly’ because the date for the re-opening was not planned with this in mind. It was actually pure chance that the re-opening should taken place on 2nd October. But, it does seem absolutely right and absolutely perfect that the re-opening should have occurred on the very day of Fr. O’Connell’s 5th anniversary. Indeed, some people have said that the major building works that have taken place in the parish over the past four years could well be attributed to Fr. O’Connell and could well be described as his legacy to the parish. This is certainly part of the truth.
Everyone who has seen the newly renovated Clogherinkoe Church agree that it’s a truly magnificent job of work. Some people have even suggested that Clogherinkoe Church is now the nicest church in the parish. When asked for his opinion about the matter, the Parish Architect was very diplomatic in saying that Johnstownbridge, Broadford and Clogherinkoe churches were all wonderful structures to begin with and each one has its own particular charm and its own particular beauty. So, therefore, instead of looking at the renovation of the parish churches as some kind of ‘beauty’ competition, which one of them has won and the other two have lost, we should be broad-minded enough to realise that all the churches in the parish are very beautiful and all of them were renovated in response to their own particular needs and in terms of their own particular architectural qualities.
With regard to Clogherinkoe Church, the Architect emphasised that the magnificent stained-glass window at the back of the sanctuary is the primary architectural feature of this building. Therefore, he deliberately chose to make the design and the colours of this stained-glass window the key to his architectural plan for the renovation of the church interior.
Obviously, the whole purpose of a window is to let in light. And, one of the most dramatic improvements that have been made to Clogherinkoe Church is the vast amount of light and brightness that is now diffused throughout every part of the building.
Where there was darkness, now there is light!
Notice that the electric lighting in the main body of the church is radiating both upwards and downwards, and the upward reach of the light is now exposing the lovely rib-vaulting in the ceiling which was previously hidden in darkness.
The introduction of new light into the church is perhaps nowhere more evident than it is in the main entrance to the church building. The improvised choir gallery in the belfry, which in latter years became a storage area, was completely removed. This development allowed natural light from the belfry windows to shine down into the porch, illuminating what was a very small, pokey and uninteresting space in the past.
The bright and spacious porch which has now been created at the main entrance literally embraces you the moment you arrive at the front door and invites you to come forward through the triumphal arch and into the main body of the church; a truly magnificent entrance to a truly magnificent church!
Immediately upon entering the nave of the church your attention is drawn towards the large limestone Baptism Font, which was originally outside the main door. The Baptism Font has cleaned up beautifully and now takes pride of place at the back of the church where it will be used in the future, not only for baptisms, but also for people to bless themselves with holy water before taking their seats in the church.
In harmony with the new atmosphere of light throughout the whole church, the painting of the building has been deliberately done in very light and bright colours: cream chosen for the walls, the wainscoting and the confessional, an oatmeal coloured carpet on the aisle, and then the new floor, the new seating and the restored Stations of the Cross all left in their natural wood colouring.
The colours in the sanctuary are clearly determined by the colours of the stained-glass window: the rich red of the carpet and the light blue of the coffered ceiling.
Moreover, the various designs that are present in the door of the tabernacle, the brass shield surrounding the tabernacle, the gable of the priest’s chair, the curving shapes of the limestone ambo and altar are all picking up on different aspects of the richly ornamented stained-glass window and highlighting the fact that this part of the church is quite literally a symbol of heavenly glory.
The restored sanctuary lamp, which is now hanging from the triumphal arch on the right hand side of the sanctuary, had a central place in Clogherinkoe Church in years past. Incredibly, during a previous renovation in the late 1960’s, Fr. Grace decided it would be a good idea to dispose of the sanctuary lamp! However, an aunt of Peter Jones, who was then a sacristan in this church, had the sound aesthetic judgment and the presence of mind to ask Fr. Grace to give it to her instead of throwing it out. Thankfully, he obliged. After that, the sanctuary lamp spent four decades lying in the back of a shed.
In recent times, members of the Jones family re-discovered this lost treasure and through Peter Jones it was then passed on to me. On behalf of the community, I am grateful to Peter and to the Jones family for minding this valuable piece of parish property for all those years. As you can see, the sanctuary lamp has now been beautifully restored and has arrived home again to its proper place, the sanctuary of Clogherinkoe Church.
Where there was darkness, now there is light!
The newly renovated Clogherinkoe Church is a spectacular work of church art and church architecture. With the completion of the building works, we can now proudly celebrate the fact that we have a truly magnificent place of worship for ourselves and for future generations of parishioners.
Personally, I have to admit, my time in Balyna Parish has been an amazing period in my priestly ministry. In my wildest dreams, I never thought when I came into this parish seven years ago, that I would close down every single one the three churches within the space of four years …… and then have the indescribable pleasure of re-opening them all again, newly renovated and fit for purpose for the next 60 to 70 years. That, I assure you, is a very good feeling!
Many parishioners have very kindly given me a great deal of credit for my part in the completion of all this building work. I certainly acknowledge that I played my part as the Building Pastor to the best of my ability; but, having said that, I’m acutely conscious that it was the Providence of God that I should have been Parish Priest of Balyna during the past seven years, when many forces, outside my control, were responsible for bringing things to this very happy and successful conclusion.
Obviously, the money which we realised from the sale of the Parochial House in Balyna was the most crucial element in driving the building works forward. However, money has to be well minded, well managed and well spent. In this context, I would like to publicly express my sincere thanks to Catherine Wynne, the Parish Administrator, for her prudent management of parish funds over the past six years. If only she had been the Minister for Finance during the Celtic Tiger, this country would not be in the mess that it’s in at the moment!
Going a step further, in terms of expressing public gratitude, I would like to express my appreciation to the Parish Architect, Richard Barnwall and also Timmy Dunleavey, the carpenter who make the beautiful seats, doors and all the other joinery work in the church. I would like to thank the Building Contractor, Paul McQuaid and his Company, Ganson Construction, the Foreman, Oliver Lynch, the building workers and the tradesmen, the members of the Parish Finance Committee and the members of the Parish Buildings Committee, the Sacristan, Pat Byrne, the workers of the Balyna C.E.S., Broadford Altar Society for donating the altar cloths, Dolly and Denise Kane, for providing flowers, Patrick Oman for providing storage facilities for church property, Clogherinkoe Church Choir for providing the music and hymns, and everyone who helped in any way with the cleaning and preparation of the church for the re-opening Mass.
The appropriate Latin phrase which comes to mind at this moment is “Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam” – “To the greater glory of God.” It is to God that we give thanks for bringing us to this proud and happy day. It is to God that we dedicate our three beautifully renovated parish churches. It is to God that we give thanks for putting us into a position whereby we could afford to get all of this work done and paid for without undue stress. And it is to God that we give thanks for the gifts and talents of the many different people who were involved in bringing these building works to completion. Again, I emphasise that their combined gifts and talents are ultimately God’s blessing to them and the ripe and luscious fruit of their God-given talents is now clearly evident for everyone to see in St. Brigid’s Church, Clogherinkoe.
“Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam” – “To the greater glory of God.”
Where there was darkness, now there is light!
St. Brigid’s Church
St. Brigid’s Church in Clogherinkoe is of Gothic Style. The building works were completed in 1862. Fr. Felix Tracey P.P. was the Building Pastor and John Sterling Butler was the Architect.
St. Brigid’s is an imposing structure. Of note are it’s stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross. It replaced an earlier church which was either built or enlarged in 1749, as attested by the inscription over the doorway – “D.D. P.P. 1749. The initials refer to Dominick Dempsey, P.P. in 1749.
According to the Irish Architectural Archive, Clogherinkoe Church was built between 1861 and 1862. It is Early Decorated Gothic. It was constructed with local black stone with Carrick limestone dressing. The builder was Keegan of Killucan. Clerk of works: Peter Killian. It cost about £3,000.