|Administrator:||Fr. John Garvey||(090) 964 3916|
|Curates:||Fr. Declan McInerney|
|Fr. Daniel O'Donovan|
|Christianity reached the parish of Ballinasloe as early as the time of Saint Patrick when Saint Grellan was consecrated by him and established his foundation in Kilclooney. Saint Raoilin established his church in Creagh. Kilclooney and Creagh became parishes after the Synod of Kells in 1152. The foundation stone of the present Saint Michael's church was laid in 1852 and Our Lady of Lourdes church was dedicated on August 18, 1933.|
Standing high on the skyline, the slender spire of St. Michael's Church gives the traveller a first sight of Ballinasloe from many approaches. Rising to a height of 180 feet, the bell-tower with its steeple draws the eye to the Gothic-Style Church of dressed local limestone.
The focal point of the town, St. Michael's Church stands at the eastern end of a wide, open square that shows off the light, airy lines of its design. Completed in 1858, St. Michael's today is a place of worship of which the people of Ballinasloe are justly proud and it is also a symbol of the resilience and courage of a people who survived religious intolerance and years of famine to face the daunting task of raising that place of worship out of very sparse resources.
It is built on the site of an older church erected in the first years of the nineteenth century. In his history of Ballinasloe, Dr. P. K. Egan says that this site by a channel of the river Suck was the original location of Dun Leodha. By 1845 this early church, the first to be built in the town itself, had become too small to accommodate the congregation and the parish priest of that time, Archdeacon Lawrence Dillon undertook the task of erecting a new church at an estimated cost of £4,000.
In 1846, James J. McCarthy, F.R.I.A.I., was chosen to design the new church and drawings were prepared. The famine came and the project was shelved. Five years later interest revived and the architect Pugin, regarded by many as the expert on Gothic design, revised the plans.
Dr. Egan writes that, while retaining McCarthy's basic plan with its lofty, pillared nave, adjoining aisles and open, timbered roof, Pugin introduced a greater simplification of detail and substituted the original eastern gable with a high chancel arch and an added sanctuary with a tracery window similar to the one in Kilconnell Abbey. That an architect of international status should have interested himself in the design of a church in a small town in the West of Ireland is a matter of some conjecture.
Pugin, a convert of Swiss origin, was a friend of Cardinal Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster and a protégé of the Catholic Earl of Shrewsbury who, according to another Clonfert historian of repute, Dr. Eric Mac Fhinn, had been a generous friend of the Diocese in famine times. The then bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Derry was keenly interested in church-building. The conjunction was a happy one that brought about what Dr. Egan describes as one of the most distinguished and satisfying examples of neo-Gothic building in 19th century Ireland.
The first stone was laid by Dr. Derry in 1852 and the work was completed six years later. On the morning of August 25, 1858, Dr. Derry began the ceremony of consecration. The church itself was dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. Two side chapels were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and to St. John the Baptist. Dr. John McHale, Archbishop of Tuam, celebrated Pontifical Mass and Cardinal Wiseman, who had so graciously accepted the Bishop of Clonfert's invitation, made the journey from London to preach the sermon. It was a memorable day for Ballinasloe. That Cardinal Wiseman, so rapturously received by the town's people, was not aware of the full implications of his visit to Ballinasloe, is made plain in a letter quoted by Dr. Egan in his book.
The town now had a church capable of holding one thousand people. Not until 1887 were bell tower and spire added, in which year, the Papal Envoy, Monsignor Persico, preached in St. Michael's.
In the years that followed, successive administrators made improvements to the interior of the church. The grounds were landscaped, the Grotto of Our Lady and the Calvary and other statuary were added about the time of the Great War. Two Administrators of that era, Rev. Fr. Timothy Joyce whose speedy clearance of the obtrusive market-house, weigh bridge and monument from the Market Square is a local epic in itself, and Rev. Fr. John Madden did a great deal to enhance the beauty of St. Michael's and its surroundings. In Fr. Madden's time, an altar of Connemara marble with a recumbent figure of the dead Christ by the sculptor Albert Power and a Tabernacle Door by Mia Cranwell were added. The mural of the Blessed Trinity on the chancel arch was painted by Harry Clarke and the murals of Saints Grellan and Brendan in the sanctuary are the work of Joseph Tierney.
On Sunday, August 24, 1958, the centenary of the Consecration of the Church was honoured. The Bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Philbin, celebrated Pontifical High Mass and the sermon was preached by Dr. Lucey, Bishop of Cork.
Through the years, the improvements continued. The work of laying out the Sanctuary in its present style was completed in early 1976 to a design by Guy and Moloney Associates, to bring it into conformity with modern liturgical teaching. The altar was remodelled, allowing the priest to face the congregation during Mass and the figure of the Dead Christ was incorporated in the design.
The chapel of St. John the Baptist is now, fittingly enough, the Baptistery and the limestone pulpit that formerly stood in the nave has been fashioned into a Baptismal Font. On the other side of the Sanctuary is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
The latest improvement was the total reconstruction and enlargement and ornamentation of the pipe organ which was installed for the centenary celebrations in 1958.
High and airy as it is, with its harmony of style, ancient and modern, it is a place of prayer with a strong sense of the presence of God. It stands, after more than a century, changing with the times but yet retaining the grand simplicity of its original conception.
Many, out of their varying talents and resources, have given to the making of St. Michael's over the years and St. Michael's has given back much in peace and calm to those who come to pray. A House of God, its very presence today on a site considered at the time of its erection to be entirely unsuitable, is a symbol that can instil courage into the hearts of those overburdened with life's cares - a symbol of triumph over adversity.
|Patron of Church||St. Michael||Our Lady of Lourdes|
|Saturday evening||7.00 p.m.||6.30 p.m.|
|Sunday, 7.00 p.m.|
Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is celebrated each June in St. Michael's Church.
Christmas novena is celebrated in St. Michael's on nine Thursdays before Christmas.
Cemetery Sunday with prayers for the dead and blessing of graves is in July each year.