THERE is an old saying that goes something like, ‘a community is only at its strongest when it stands together.’
For the people of the Muintir Bháire parish on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, this old adage goes without saying. Indeed, for this small community on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, working together is really what it’s all about. When a call went out for help in renovating the three churches and the mass centre on the peninsula, parish priest Fr Ger Galvin knew that his parishioners would not let their parish down.
‘We started with the church in Durrus, which is over 100 years old and was severely in need of immediate work. The years of wear and tear had taken their toll, and it was time to do what we could to ensure that the church was around for another hundred years or more,’ Fr Galvin told The Southern Star.
With a plan taking shape for work to begin at the Sacred Heart Church in Durrus, another church – the Star of the Sea in Kilcrohane – also needed attention, and again the community sprang into action. ‘The Star of the Sea needs work carried out to repair a leak in its roof,’ Fr Galvin said. ‘We have also decided to conduct an assessment of St Patrick’s Church, Rusnacahara and the mass centre at Gortalassa – all of which are in need of various works, to say the least.’
The first job was to see exactly what was required in Durrus, and a team from the local community took charge to assess what to prioritise and when to begin. ‘Apart from the obvious painting and decorating, there was a lot of other work to be carried out, especially on the windows, two of which are over 120 years old and cost €5,000 to remove and repair,’ Fr Galvin said. However, this was not all that needed to be fixed at the Sacred Heart Church. ‘It turned out that the altar floor was completely rotten. It’s a wonder I didn’t disappear while giving the final blessing one Sunday morning.’ When all the work was finally finished in Durrus, the bill came in at €70,000.
‘In the end, after replacing the wiring, painting and decorating, repairing the dangerous altar, moving the water font from the porch of the church inside so that we can use it for baptisms, and the work our local master stone carver Victor Daly carried out, the Sacred Heart Church is ready for the next century and beyond,’ Fr Galvin continued.
While all the work was underway in Durrus, another team was getting ready to tackle the repairs to the Star of the Sea in Kilcrohane. ‘Work will begin very shortly in Kilcrohane, and I want to thank the many, many people who have been giving so generously of their time and their energy, attending meetings and working on the committees to ensure that the work is done in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible,’ Fr Galvin said. Now that the plans for the renovations at the churches and the mass centre are in place a fundraising effort is well underway. ‘An ongoing collection is now up and running for the Muintir Bháire Parish Churches Renovation Fund, and the response has been a very generous one,’ Fr Galvin continued. ‘I would like to thank all those who have been working so hard with the collection and the fundraising effort, as well as to all who have been contributing. The fundraising work is well underway and plans are at an advanced stage for two upcoming events that I am certain will prove very popular indeed. There will be a cookery demonstration hosted by celebrity chef and television personality, Neven Maguire, taking place at the Westlodge Hotel, Bantry, on Wednesday, October 5th. There will also be some local food producers showcasing the wonderful produce available in this area.
‘However, before we enjoy an evening with Neven Maguire in Bantry, there will be a candlelight concert at the Star of the Sea in Kilcrohane with international singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey on Sunday, August 28th. Tickets are on sale at many outlets on the peninsula and in Bantry or you can contact Mary Daly at the Bayview Inn on 027-67981.’
Fr Galvin is very proud of the hard work and drive the people of the Mhuintir Bháire parish have shown while coming together to ensure the preservation of their local churches.
‘This is an enormous challenge for such a small community, and I am delighted to be a part of it. I want to thank once more the locals and indeed those who have holiday homes on the peninsula for all their support and help,’ Fr Galvin concluded.