New Churchtown

Extracts from the Parish Booklet published for the 25th Anniversary in 1982

Sunday, March 24th 1957 was a good day for Churchtown. It was the day of the Blessing and opening of a new Church, for a new and rapidly growing area, evidenced by the number of prams, go-carts and young families who gathered to welcome Dr. McQuaid on that day. The new Church was sited at the junction of Nutgrove Avenue and Oakdown Road, on the edge of fields and sprawling farmlands, and was part of the Parish of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham. Its then Parish Priest, Very Rev. Tom O’Donnell, had cut the first sod on the 25th September, 1954, and the foundation stone was laid on the 9th May, 1955 by the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, then Archbishop of Dublin. The Solemn Blessing of the Bell was performed by the Most Rev. Patrick Dunne, D.D., on the 1st July, 1956.

 It was a modern Church, striking in its external colouring of blue dashing, with a bold red roof – its interior using some of the best materials then on the building market. The total cost was £59,000, and the church had a seating capacity of 1,100. It was a symmetrical cruciform plan with short transepts and for its congregation an uninterrupted view of the High Altar. The Church was placed under the protection of the Good Shepherd. The senior Curate responsible for the running of the new Church was Fr. Chris. Hyland, now Parish Priest of Leixlip.

 The housing areas around the Church grew. The Church seceded from the also rapidly expanding Rathfarnham Parish and became a Parish in its own right on the 10th June 1965. On the following day Father Francis Kenny was appointed as Parish Priest. The new Parish boundaries extended from the natural boundary of the Dodder River at Orwell Gardens and Orwell Bridge, taking in the Braemor and Landscape areas to Nutgrove Avenue and the rear of the Grange – to the top of Beaumont Avenue, past Churchtown House, on the Weston area, and the Upper Churchtown Road to the junction of Lower Churchtown Road.

 New housing was, and is still being added. In the early 1970′s about 600 homes were established in the Mountainview and Meadows areas. Mountainview House was acquired from the Local Authorities by Rev. Father Frank McCabe, to whom the youth of that particular area, owe a debt of gratitude. The house was acquired for the establishment of a Youth and Community Centre, and is now run by the Mountainview Tenants and Residents Association. Its committee are doing tremendous work for the youth of the area, supported from time to time, with financial support from the rest of the Parish.

 In the last 25 years the Parish of The Good Shepherd has witnessed the growing of its young families and has seen the majority of its Parishioners grown from babies to young men and women, now taking their places in other Parishes throughout the Diocese and County. We too have been proud to present a number of our young men and women to the Priesthood and to the Religious Life.

 It has witnessed too changes in the Liturgy of the Church it serves. There has been relaxation in the fasting laws, both for Holy Communion and traditional fast-days of the Church. The vernacular of the Mass has changed from Latin to English. The Altar has been changed so that the Celebrant may face his Congregation. Holy Communion is now a feature of all Sunday Masses; Evening Masses and late Wedding Masses and Funeral Masses are now commonplace. There have been minor other changes and the Liturgy at Easter and Christmas has been adapted to a greater participation and involvement of the Laity.

On the physical side we now had a daughter Church to support. From 1974 Fr. Aidan Burke was appointed to look after the development of a new Church at Marley Grange. The people of the Good Shepherd were generous in their support and subscribed £120,000. Then on December 6th, 1981, Marley Grange became independent with the opening of its own Parish Church – “The Church of The Divine Word”. During the last 25 years the people of our Parish have not only subscribed to their Parent and Daughter Churches, but have given very generously to Diocesan collections, such as Share, Clonliffe College, and the Common Fund for retired Priests and Priests in new and less well-off Parishes.

As is inevitable in the spread of any urban area, the old must give away to the new, and so it was in Churchtown. This is an area rich in historical interest with its share of old houses. Some of these now house the marks of the new Parish and stand proudly beside the new buildings of Schools and Congregations. The Parish has two Embassies within its boundaries, The Russian Embassy on Orwell Road and the Dutch Embassy at Churchtown House. In an ecumenical spirit, we welcome the Church of Ireland Theological College and Divinity Hostel in what was once Fetherstonaugh House beside the comparatively new Mount Carmel Hospital. The Sisters’ House, once Ardavon House, was the Novitiate of the Carmelite Fathers.

When we mention these, we must not forget the help which we received from the Jesuits at Rathfarnham Castle while we were the daughter Church of Rathfarnham, and the help which we still receive from the Carmelite Fathers, at times from Gort Muire, and still from Terenure College, and also the Redemptorists in Rathgar.

Singing and music in Church is as old as the Catholic Church itself and Churchtown has not been behind in its achievements. We have acquired a new Organ, and can boast three Choirs – The Childrens’ Choir from Loreto National School, The Senior Church Choir and The Folk Group who have two television appearances to their credit.

On the 18th of June 1978 Our Parish Priest was appointed a Canon of the Dublin Diocesan Chapter. Sadly, however, Canon Kenny died on the 23rd July 1981. May he rest in peace, and may they also rest in peace, two Curates who died while still serving actively in the Parish – Rev. Fr. Denis Lenihan and Rev. Fr. Frank McCabe, and also Fr. John Hanlon, who died after retiring from the Parish.

On the 6th August, 1981, we had a new Parish Priest – Fr. Patrick Fitzsimons, who came to us from Haddington Road. The people of Churchtown bid him welcome.

Time is marching on. The last year has seen the installation of a new Organ and the moving forward and alterations to the Altar, and the disappearance of the old Altar rails. The electric storage-heaters are being replaced by modern Gas-heating and shortly our Church will boast ramps specially installed for the convenience of the handicapped.

Our Jubilee Year is here. The Parish of the Good Shepherd has become a busy, thriving Community, and goes forward-with hope for the future of its Parishioners.

Phil O’Keeffe

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