Wednesday 19 June 2019

Celebrating five decades of community in Boherbue

The Church of the Immaculate Conception will mark 50 years with a special mass on Friday, May 24

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Boherbue
The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Boherbue

Maria Herlihy

There will be a memorable slice of history celebrated in Boherbue later this month as the Church of the Immaculate Conception marks five decades of serving the community.

As explained by Fr Jim Kennelly, the Mass, which will be held on Friday, May 24, will very much be an  inclusive  and societal celebration where anyone who shares a past with the church would be most welcome to etch out their own piece of history. 

Prior to discussing the building of the church, it is always best to reflect on the past. The concept of building a new church - or indeed renovating the old church - was mooted back in the 1950s under Fr David Breen. The old church sat where the Church of the Immaculate Conception presently is. The old church was built between 1825 and 1830 but, by the 1950s, it was in quite dire condition. 

During the 1950s Fr Breen had a  rather "dynamic curate" in Fr O'Connor who fast realised that, for a new church to be built, funding would have to be at the top of the agenda. And so began a range of fundraisers, from twice weekly films to bingo sessions, which were held in the newly built parochial hall. 

As outlined in the excellent historical book, 'The Church in the Parish of Kilmeen' by the noted historian Louis McCarthy,  Fr Breen died in 1964 and Fr O'Connor was appointed Parish Priest of the Spa. But the show went on, as Fr Lyne was appointed Parish Priest and Fr Dillon as his curate. And so began the countdown to the new church as the funding was in place. 

The contractor was a local talented tradesman, Christy Feehan, who along with his workmen began their task in 1967 and the mammoth project  took two years to complete. The architect was Thomas Sheehan of Limerick.

During this time parishioners were without a church but, as explained by Fr Kennelly, funerals, baptisms and weddings were all transferred to the parochial hall. 

The community had raised £125,000 in a relatively short period of time for the church to be built and on Tuesday, April 29, 1969, its first Mass was held to great fanfare. 

Fast forward 50 years, Fr Kennelly said priests from the past linked to the church, including Fr Bill Radley and Fr Kieran O'Sullivan, along with priests native to the region and the Bishop have all been invited. 

"We would be delighted that anyone who has had any involvement with the church would step forward and mark the special Mass with us," he said.  "This really is a parish occasion and it will trigger a lot of memories for many people," he said. 

The Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception will be held at 8pm.