A LARGE number of parishioners packed into the Church of Our Lady & Saint Patrick in Ballymoney on Sunday for a Solemn Mass of Re-opening of the Church and dedication of the Altar.
A number of representatives from Protestant churches were also present for the historic occasion as proceedings were led by the Principal Celebrant, the Most Reverend Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor.
Con-celebrants included Very Reverend Canon Dominic McHugh; Very Reverend Francis O’Brien, PP; Very Reverend Peter Forde, PP, VF; Very Reverend Aidan Denny, CC; Very Reverend Christopher Gray, PP; Reverend Paul Fleming.
The Master of Ceremonies was Very Reverend Michael Sheehan, ADM, VF and the Deacon was Reverend Conor McGrath and Reverend Raymond McCullagh was Cantor.
Readers were Mr Gerard McAfee and Mrs Siobhan McCormick-McKenna. Organists were Aaron Loughrey and James Henry. Choir Master Gerard McLaughlin was assisted by Carmel McCaughern, Donal Rodgers and Niamh Rodgers.
Visiting clergy included: The Reverend Andrew Sweeney and his wife Cathy, Church of Ireland; The Reverend Greg Alexander and his wife Shirley, the Methodist Church; The Reverend Trevor Magowan and his wife Maeve, formerly St James Presbyterian Church; Chancellor Robin Lavery, retired Minister, Church of Ireland, Ballymoney, and Gwenn; The Reverend Brian Howe and his wife Pam, Church of Ireland.
Alderman Harry Connolly represented Ballymoney Borough Council.
Bishop Treanor congratulated the Parish on a “great achievement”.
In his homily he said: “My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, once again in the history of the parish of Ballymoney and Derrykeighan architect, surveyor, builder, tradesman, worker have completed a work for God and community. Measuring instruments, human skills of calculation, construction and embellishment have re-appointed this building and space, built in 1877.
“Thanks to you the people of Ballymoney and Derrykeighan this Church is now renewed and embellished for the purpose it has served since its consecration on 2 June 1878, that is, for prayer, for worship and for the celebration of the gift and grace of Christian faith.
“On behalf of all of us gathered here for this re-opening ceremony and Eucharist, I congratulate the Design Team, the Architects, Liturgical Designers, Quantity Surveyor, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, the contactors, E Kearney & Son, the sub-contractors, the tradesmen, workers and all who put their skill of mind, eye and hand to this project. I compliment you all, the parish and the community on a magnificent and beautiful job.
“.The booklet, A Statement of Accounts and a Few Facts concerning Ballymoney and Ballykeighan, produced in 1881 by the then Parish Priest, Fr John McErlain, claims that the Church of Derrykeighan was founded in the fifth century and indicates that Ballymoney was an important parish and centre of Christian life at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
The Bishop together with the parish priest, Fr Francis O’Brien, and also on behalf of Canon Dominic McHugh, welcomed and greeted the shepherds and representatives of the local Churches and congregations : The Reverend Andrew Sweeney and his wife Cathy, Church of Ireland; The Reverend Greg Alexander and his wife Shirley, the Methodist Church; The Reverend Trevor Magowan and his wife Maeve, formerly St James’ Presbyterian Church; Chancellor Robin Lavery, retired Minister, Church of Ireland, Ballymoney and Gwenn;
The Reverend Brian Howe and his wife Pam, Church of Ireland.
Bishop Treanor paid tribute to public representatives, in particular Alderman Harry Connolly, SDLP, Ballymoney, who with represented the Mayor of Ballymoney, Councillor Ian Stevenson.
“Today, Good Shepherd Sunday, which is also vocations Sunday, we also recall and salute the generations of clergy who served in this parish down to Fr Francis O’Brien whose work and dedication to this project I salute.
“We remember the courage of Mr William McCafferty who in 1820 appeared at a Clergy Conference in Antrim to express the community’s grievance that they were not served by a priest and who petitioned the then Bishop McMullan to appoint a resident priest. His successor Bishop Crolly would duly do so and appointed Fr Henry McLaughlin who served for twenty years from 1825.
“Recalling the clergy who have served here in the intervening two and a quarter centuries, I salute the work of Canon Dominic McHugh here in his retirement, whose 65th anniversary of Ordination I attended here in summer 2009 and whose priestly bonhomie and pastoral dedication inspires and heartens all of us. His example and that of many clergy remind us of the need to promote a culture of responsiveness to the vocation to priesthood, religious life and to ministry of Word and Sacrament.
“I congratulate once again the people of this parish for making this day possible and for the witness of your faith as expressed so visibly through this newly furbished place of worship. From all of this we draw energy and hope for the future.
“As we proceed to dedicate the altar and celebrate the memory of the paschal mystery of Our Lord and Saviour, may this achievement and this day sustain us all in faith and may this Church serve to nourish a knowledge and love of Christ for generations to come. Amen,” said Bishop Treanor.