Áilín Quinlan profiles the recently formed parish assembly in this thriving parish
IT’S up and running barely a year – but already Clonakilty Parish Assembly is about to launch a new public library and is preparing to establish a local radio station.
Since the Assembly was set up in November 2014, its 50-strong membership, which ranges from people in their 20s to their 80s, has scarcely allowed as much as a blade of grass to grow under its feet.
The progressive group has its own Facebook page, holds youth events and regular social get-togethers, and has even organised two pilgrimages.
And that’s only for starters, because 2015 was a hectic year, acknowledges Philip Joyce, chairman of the Community Connections committee, one of several sub-groupings under the Assembly umbrella.
Other groups focus on issues such as the Liturgy, Children, Young People and Family and Faith Enrichment, with each having its own chairperson and secretary.
‘It’s all very much a team effort,’ says Philip with regard to the Assembly, the range of which extends from Clonakilty Parish – home to approximately 5,000 residents – to Ballinglanna on the coast, eastwards, to Lyre in the north-west, and from Ballinroher to Kilbree.
There are two Catholic Churches within the Parish, the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the town centre and the Sacred Heart Church in Darrara.
‘It’s a very dynamic organisation, in which I’m very glad to be involved – people here are achieving a lot,’ Mr Joyce added.
Evidence of members’ efforts is not difficult to find. One of the first events organised by the new Assembly was a youth mass during Advent 2014 which culminated in a Parish Centre pizza-and-singsong session. It was so successful that a 7.30pm Youth Celebration Vigil Mass now takes place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Clonakilty on the first Saturday of every month.
The Clonakilty Parish Facebook page was set up last December by the Community Connections Group, which also publishes a weekly Sunday newsletter.
Much work is being carried out in advance of the establishment of a special local radio link which would allow for the broadcasting of mass from the church to houses within a certain radius.
The Assembly is currently gathering information to gauge the level of interest in the radio project, with 100 participants being required to make the initiative viable. For a one-off cost of €40 for the receiver, homeowners could tune into broadcasts from the church, if they are unable to attend themselves.
The idea is to bring daily mass and other ceremonies to the housebound, explains Joyce who says the Assembly hopes to have the station up and running in the new year.
In the meantime, a public library is being established in the Clonakilty Parish Centre adjacent to the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
A selection of religious books is currently being curated, and shelves are being installed in the building for this facility, which opens in early December.
Monthly after-Sunday mass social get-togethers now take place on alternate months in Clonakilty Parish Hall and in the Darrara Community Centre.
The group has also organised pilgrimage trips to the Honan Chapel at UCC, where representatives thanked the Chaplaincy for looking after students from the parish over the years, and, later, to Gougane Barra for Mass on St Finbarr’s weekend.
Plans are now in train for 2016, which, says Joyce will bring a new parish website, the aforementioned radio link, work with the primary schools to promote the new Grow in Love curriculum, and a full programme of events to celebrate the Year of Mercy.
So how has all of this come about? Clonakilty has had a Parish Council for many years, which was deeply involved with the finance and building projects associated with the Church.
However, the Assembly’s focus is on pastoral activities within the parish, explains Joyce.
The Assembly came into being through the support of Diocesan Pastoral Planning and Development Director, Fr Charlie Kiely and Co-ordinator of Pastoral Development Sister Karen Kent. Members of the Assembly come from a variety of backgrounds.
‘There are many from the farming community, while we also have people in business, broadcasting, education and health sectors,’ said Mr Joyce.
In late 2014, and with the aid of the priests of the parish, Monsignor Aidan O’Driscoll PP and Fr Eddie Collins, CC, the 50 or so Assembly members set about organising a structure to put into effect the Christian call to spread the Gospel of Christ.
A Parish Mission Statement was formulated – this is now displayed at both church entrances and in the Parish Centre entrance and gives the Assembly members focus and a reminder of why they are involved in what can sometimes be very intense work.
Each Assembly lasts three years, after which the Parish is asked to nominate new members. ‘Everybody is encouraged to nominate somebody that they feel would be an asset to the group, someone who can work within a group for the good of the whole parish. There is no age barrier to being nominated.’
All enquiries to the parish priest, Monsignor Aidan O’Driscoll, The Presbytery, Clonakilty.