NEW BROUGHDERG CHURCH TO BE OPENED ON SUNDAY
Saturday 31st August, 1985
TWENTY YEARS AGO THE REV. SEAMUS SHIELDS – NOW PARISH PRIEST OF GREENCASTLE BUT THEN A CURATE IN SWATRAGH, CO. DERRY. – WAS VERY SERIOUSLY INJURED IN A BAD ROAD ACCIDENT NEAR ARDEE IN CO. LOUTH.
Today, although still bearing some of the scars of that horrific smash, he has never forgotten the experience and is convinced that he owes his life to the fact Our Lady of the Wayside summoned help to the scene in time to get him to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Dundalk for urgent medical attention.
Fr. Shields retains a fervent devotion to Our Lady of the Wayside, and it would have been no surprise to those who know him therefore, that this was the holy name he chose to dedicate to the beautiful new Church just completed in Broughderg, which will be opened on Sunday next, 1st September.
The opening and solemn dedication will be presided over by the Bishop of Derry, Most Rev. Dr. Edward Daly, and arrangements are now being finalised for what will be a proud and auspicious day in the history of this scenic district in the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, where St. Oliver Plunkett kept the faith alive in penal times – monuments of which, three local Mass Rocks, have been restored and are still much in evidence today.
The new Church of Our Lady of the Wayside is already open to visitors and when our reporter called to see it this week there was a steady stream of people from far and wide dropping in to admire the impressive new building, which was constructed to replace the old St. Mary’s Church, Broughderg, which had fallen into such a bad state of disrepair that it was considered uneconomical to undertake a renovation scheme.
It is appropriate, however, that in this, the centenary year of St. Mary’s, a new Church should be erected to take its place within sight of the spot where the predecessors of many of the present Broughderg families gathered to worship over the years.
The new Church, costing a six-figure sum, is built on a site reclaimed from bogland and when work began last November there were extra difficulties in that the contractors had to dig very deep to prepare foundations in the marshy ground. To add to their problems, the weather conditions for the job were the worst for many years, and were particularly daunting in an elevated mountainous region such as this.
But Fr. Shields – whose outstanding community work in his previous parishes is legendary – relishes a challenge and it is a fitting tribute to him and to all those involved in this project that such a satisfactory outcome has been achieved.
He is full of praise for all those who contributed to the funds needed for the Church, and stresses that many people from outside the parish – as well as the local community – donated generously and whole-heartedly.
"I am very grateful for the help and support shown by all these people and I should make special mention of the fact that the site for the Church was donated free of charge by Mr. Bernard McGuigan, of Broughderg,” said Fr. Shields.
The Church itself is warm, comfortable and airy. The seating accommodation should adequately provide for the needs of the local parishioners, and the altar and surrounds are stylishly yet tastefully adorned with a well-balanced blend of the modern and the traditional Church lay-out. The tranquil, peaceful environment, both inside and outside, lends itself to a perfect, spiritual atmosphere for prayer and adoration.
The Church has the most modern electronic bells and the work on the stainless steel tabernacle and plaque were carried out by Mr. Billy Steenson, of Glenarm. At one side, there is what is known as a “Crying Room” for young children, so that mother can bring them along while they are attending Mass and other services. This room will also be used as changing accommodation for altar boys. Toilets – another common amenity in the modern Church – are also provided.
The foundation stone of the original Church of St. Mary’s Broughderg, which was laid on 18th May, 1877, and dedicated on 26th July, 1885, has been placed on the wall at the back of the Church in memory of the Very Rev. P McKeown former Parish Priest.
The grounds outside the building have been landscaped by Fr. Shields himself, with a notable feature being the special Alpine shrubs suitable to the exposed mountain climate. At the edge of the spacious car park there is the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto, which has already become a focal point for prayer in the locality. This beautiful grotto was constructed by Mr. Peter Joseph Keenan and group of voluntary workers. Visitors can use the pathway through the grounds to see that statue of the Risen Christ and the remarkable Calvary scene.
Commenting on the work which has gone into the whole project, Fr. Shields said: “You only build a Church once, and it is my view that it should be made as attractive, both spiritually and physically, as possible. We are looking forward to a very large congregation for the solemn dedication ceremony, but we are only too happy to welcome visitors at any time to look around the Church. Already we have had people here from all the other Churches, not from the neighbourhood, but from all parts of the country, to admire the building and to wish us well.
"No formal invitations are being issued for Sunday’s ceremonies at 3.00pm, but everyone is welcome, as the entire proceedings both inside and outside will be amplified and videoed in the car park on a six-foot screen inside a large marquee with seating accommodation.”
For the opening ceremony, however, no cars will be accommodated in the car park except the Bishop’s.
Those wishing to attend Sunday’s opening should have no difficulty finding the Church – despite its location in a remote area of the Sperrins – as the enterprising Fr. Shields has the way well signposted from all the main access roads.
Indeed, the meandering road between Omagh and Draperstown should have an unusually high volumn of traffic on Sunday afternoon as hundreds of people from Broughderg, Greencastle, all over Tyrone and indeed the North, make their way to witness this celebrated milestone in the history of a small but vibrant rural community.
For Fr. Shields, Sunday will be a particularly joyous occasion, of course, and the occasion will have much personal significance for him. “I will never forget that when I was a dying man at the roadside after my car smash, an ambulance arrived on the scene without anyone having sent for it. It was Our Lady of the Wayside who saved my life on that occasion. I have no doubt about that.”
The words of a prayer to Our Lady of the Wayside are written on a plaque at the back of the new Church: Our Lady of the Wayside, for the sake of the child in your arms, be with us now, lead us on to the end of the road, and be there to meet us when we all need you most, at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Footnote: Architects for the new Church were Hegarty, Masterson and Doherty; Project Architect: Liam Costello; Main Contractor – J. and M. Begley; Site Foreman – John Conway; Quantity Surveyor – Joseph Mulheron; Structural Engineers – Taylor and Boyd; Mechanical Engineer – John McMonagle.
Another feature which has come in for much admiration is the exquisite wrought iron outline of Our Lady on the gable wall of the Church. The work on the six-feet high statue was carried out free of charge by Mr. Liam McQuillan, engineer of Swatragh.
The former Church at Broughderg
The impressive new Church at Broughderg
BISHOP'S PLEA FOR PRESERVATION OF RURAL COMMUNITIES
Saturday 7th September, 1985
Blessings of Broughderg’s
beautiful new Church
THE IMPORTANCE of preserving rural communities in Ireland, “which are sadly becoming more and more endangered,” was stressed by his Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Edward Daly, during Sunday’s Solemn blessing and formal opening of Broughderg’s new Church.
His Lordship described the opening of the Church of Our Lady of the Wayside as an “act of faith in rural life in Ireland,” and expressed the hope that more people would come back and make their homes in the area.
The Blessing and Dedication of the Church – believed to be the second smallest in the Diocese – was indeed a day of great joy and celebration for Greencastle parishioners, who turned out in their hundreds led by their Parish Priest Fr. Seamus Shields.
It was their energetic pastor’s fervent devotion to Our Lady of the Wayside that saw the birth of this beautiful shrine, built at the foothills of the Sperrins.
As Fr. Shields told the overflowing congregation, he was involved in a serious accident many years ago and owed his life to the fact that Our Lady of the Wayside summoned an ambulance to the scene in time to get him to hospital for urgent medical attention.
So huge was the crowd at Sunday’s ceremonies that a large marquee had to be erected in the grounds of the Church to accommodate the overflow parishioners who all wished to personally witness and experience the historic occasion.
Every family in the parish was represented as well as six families from the neighbouring Archdiocese of Armagh, who were joined by Right Rev. Monsignor Patrick McLarnon, the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese. The six families attend Broughderg Church because it was more convenient than their own parish Church.
But for Fr. Shields and many parishioners the opening was also an occasion tinged with sadness. For earlier that morning they celebrated Mass for the last time in the century old St. Mary’s Church, a short distance away.
That Church, which was dedicated 100 years ago this year, was a building which had served the community well and which was built at a time of great poverty and deprivation.
Its foundation stone, which was laid on 18th May, 1877 and dedicated on 25th July, 1885, has been placed on the wall at the back of the new Church, in memory of the Rev. P. McKeown, who was then Parish Priest.
Sunday’s ceremonies took place on a blustery day, but fortunately the rain kept away as people filled into the Church, which was full even half an hour before the ceremonies commenced.
Outside the keys of the Church were handed over to the Bishop by Mr. Bernard McGuigan, Broughderg, who donated the site free of charge. The unlocking of the Church door was then proudly performed by an elated Fr. Shields.
Mrs Josephine Clarke read the first lesson, Mr. Pat Coyle the second, and soloists during the ceremony were Misses Maria O’Neill, Martina Daly and Mrs Patricia Loughran.
The Prayers of the Faithful were led by Mrs. Dympna McAleer, Miss Ann Coyle, Mrs. Sarah Coyle and her daughter Donna; Miss Ann Kelly, Mrs. Eileen McKenna and Mrs. Patricia Loughran, who represented the parish.
The offertory gifts were borne to the Altar by Messrs Eamon McAleer, Kevin Morris and Michael O’Neill.
The Chief Con-celebrants of the Mass with the Bishop were Fr. Shields and Rev. Ignatius Loughran from the Diocese of San Diego, a native of the parish.
Right Rev. Monsignor Austin Duffy V.G., Dungiven, and Monsignor McLarnon were in the sanctuary.
Other Con-celebrants included many priests with local connections. Included were: Rev. Germanus McGrinder, Rector of the Graan Monastery, Enniskillen; Rev. Patrick McGuigan P.P., Gortin; Rev. George Doherty P.P., Donemana; Rev. John McCullagh P.P., Banagher; Rev. Martin Rooney PP Omagh; Rev. Francis Murray P.P., Cappagh; Rev. Leo Deery P.P., Ballinascreen; Rev. Declan Boland and Rev. Bernard Campbell C.C., Limavady; Rev. Bernard McMenamin P.P., Maghera; Rev. John Fox C.C., Cookstown; Fr. Martin O.Cist., Portglenone, together with several priests from the Armagh Archdiocese.
Master of Ceremony were Rev. Eamon Graham, Diocesan Secretary, and Rev. Michael Doherty, C.C., St. Eugene’s Cathedral.
Exquisite floral arrangements added colour to the proceedings, which were watched by upwards on 800 people.
Fr. Shields in his speech welcomed in particular Rev. Cecil Orr, Church of Ireland Dean of St. Columb’s Cathedral, Derry and Mr. Dominic Pinto, Consultant Surgeon at Tyrone County Hospital, to the opening of the Church.
He described the occasion as a day of great rejoicing but added that it was tinged with sadness in that their “good friend” Fr. Sean McKeown, whose great-granduncle built the former chapel, was unable to attend due to ill-health.
He thanked everyone for what he described as their “most generous donations” and told of his fervent devotion to Our Lady of the Wayside.
A section of the choir singing during the ceremonies
Recalls Old Church
In his homily, Most Rev. Dr. Daly said the new Church replaced the old St. Mary’s Church a short distance away which was dedicated 100 years ago – “a building which has served this community well, a building which was built at a time of great poverty and deprivation.
A section of the congregation in the Church.
The overflow congregation witnessed a video of the ceremonies in the Church grounds
“At that time, this area had a relatively large population – estimated to be about 2,500. the Catholic population of Greencastle parish in 1904 (the earliest year for which we have reliable diocesan records) was 1,940 – ten years later, in 1914 the population was 1,764 – in 1977 the Catholic population of the parish was less than 950 and today it is just over 1,000.
Please God this new upward trend of population will continue.
When the work which has been done in this parish over the past 10 years is taken into consideration and related to the total Catholic population here, it is quite a remarkable achievement by any standard.
“I wish therefore, to express my sincere thanks and congratulations to the people of the parish of Greencastle and to the Parish Priest, Fr. Seamus Shields, on the construction and opening of this beautiful Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Wayside here in Broughderg. I express my very sincere thanks and deep appreciation to Mr. Barney McGuigan, who donated the site free of charge.
“I congratulate the architects, the design team, artists, and contractors and workers involved. I thank all of those in this parish and elsewhere who were so generous in making the construction of this Church possible.
“The Church is in a beautiful location nestling here among the foothills of the Sperrins. I hope that more people will chose to come back to live and make their homes in this area.
“The planning policies of successive governments here up until a few years ago militated against rural areas in a cruel and disastrous manner, especially in the granting of planning permission for the building of new houses. As a direct result, the population in the countryside was reduced to a drastic extent. Subsequently schools, Churches, and other community facilities became difficult and sometimes impossible to sustain and maintain. Schools, Churches and community facilities have been disappearing in many parts of rural Ireland as a result.
“I believe and I hope sooner rather than later that the population drift from country to town will reverse. There are already some signs of this beginning to happen in our diocese – it is interesting to note that the most significant increase in rural populations are taking place in the Co. Donegal area of the diocese especially in Inishowen.
“So as well as being a house of worship to enable the handing of the faith in this community at the very edge of our diocese, this new Church building is in itself an act of faith – an act of faith in the value of rural life here in Ireland – an act of faith in the permanence of this community here. It is the life of its rural people which has always given Ireland its unique flavour.
“The life of the rural people in nearly every European country is usually the key to the true cultural identity of that country. Cities and large towns are becoming more and more similar and cosmopolitan – they are inclined to ape one another and usually manage to adopt the worst cultural qualities of cities in other countries. The maintenance of strong, healthy and vital rural communities, with their own traditions, customs and culture are of vital importance to any country and they are particularly important here in Ireland where they are being more and more endangered. In the Republic of Ireland, the drift of population from West to East is a serious cause for concern.
“Postal codes and other inventions of city-based people with a distinct lack of sensitivity to rural life are endangering the maintenance and handing on of townland names and other aspects of rural life which give that life its unique richness and individuality.
“So, even if you have to use postal codes, I would plead with you to keep your townland names, keep the things that give you an identity – things that are so important historically and culturally. If we do not protect such things as townland names now, they will be lost to future generations and that loss will be great. That is just one of many aspects of the damage that modern bureaucracy is doing to rural life.
“I congratulate you all on your new Church, I pray it will stand here for many generations to come and serve them as a place of worship, a place of prayer. I hope especially that, within a few generations, it will be too small to accommodate the local congregation. And, if that hope were realised here and in many other similar areas in Ireland, it would be good and significant development for Ireland as a whole.” concluded his Lordship.
Offertory Gifts are borne to the Altar
was special preacher
In his special sermon Fr. McCullagh said:
“From the dawn of history man has ceaselessly tried to find the meaning and purpose of life on this earth. Life for any man or woman was fragile, flimsy and fleeting. There was always hope at birth but living left its scars and, even when love overcame life’s setbacks, its joys were lost one day in the sorrow of parting. The earth is full of the graves of mankind marked by stones carved in sentences as short as life itself. Here on this mountain men left clues to their searching in the Beaghmore Stone Circles, but the puzzle remained. With the coming of Patrick to Ireland came the news of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who spoke of a way through the complexities of birth, death, joy and pain, love and resentment. To a people on a sun-drenched land, far away from the mist and rains of the Sperrins, he said simply: ‘I am the Way.’ Not that he would point out or show the way – he was the Way and for centuries on these foothills men and women who braved the wind-swept winters and scraped small harvests from ungenerous land, found in Jesus Christ purpose in their pain, sense in their suffering and peace in their perplexity.
In 1885 they found themselves at the turning point in Irish history. It was the time of Parnell and the Irish home rule party holding the balance of power at Westminster, but the events were of little significance to the people who came back here to see the completion of their Church in that summer. They had experienced the famine years, a far greater recession than anything we talk about. They had watched their sons and daughters take the horse to the emigrant boats in search of a new life across the Atlantic. Many who left here didn’t survive the journey or if they did, they never saw these mountains of home again.
So the July day when they gathered for Mass in their own house of prayer, they declared their unshakable faith in Jesus Christ who was the Way, and turned to Him in prayer, some in English, many in the native language of their ancestors. Down the years since Broughderg Church has seen the family history of its people unfold. It has seen the children of its baptismal font grow in grace ….. – some to stay, others to emigrate, some to … the family at home, others to carry the Gospel of Christ to the missions abroad. It has seen marriage honoured in the face of wealth and poverty, in sickness and in health, in the bits and pieces of every day. It has seen its people coming to bring their pain or their brokenness to God from mothers for sons and daughters in exile, for those who were sources of joy and especially for those who turned out to be a disappointment. It has watched the silent, unobtrusive faith of its menfolk who knew better than anyone else what trust could be put in the shepherd. It has seen the muted sorrow of its people in the Requiem Masses and it goes on casting its shadow over their graves in the gentle earth. It, too, like people, grew old and age left irreparable scars and so within sight of that hallowed place, today you gathered to mark the opening of this Church where God will continue to receive your worship and praise.
Life today isn’t so stringent as it was for your families a hundred years ago despite recessions, unemployment, civil unrest, and the forgettable summer. Yet in many ways, it remains just as difficult to cling to God. There are so many strident voices that declare that if Jesus Christ is the Way, then the path is overgrown and His way is perilous.
There are many who hold out to all of us the short-cut to instant pleasure, the bypass to sufficiency in an uncertain nuclear age. There are many who follow Messiahs of mayhem who would lead us to believe that violence is the only gateway to the future. And yet, Jesus Christ still says in the silence of this mountain that he remains the Way, the Truth, and the Light.
It is fitting then that today the Bishop is your guest here. To a parish where herdsmen and sheep farmers have lived for generations, the Bishop comes as pastor and shepherd. He has blessed this place of worship and will return to it again and again to teach the message of Jesus Christ. He has no option but to preach the Gospel in an age where there is no persecution, it's true, but last a time when there is pressure on the preacher to be silent, to keep the Word of God segregated from the political vocabulary of men. He is a reminder that the teaching of Christ is the only true Way to happiness, meaning and peace.
In the urgency and bustle of everyday life we need time to pause, time to reflect. Here this beautiful small Church is just such a place to pause on our pilgrim path and rest by the wayside. Its doors will be open to all who would listen to Christ’s call that we should come aside and rest a while. On this hillside it will welcome the tourist and traveller, the schoolbagged child, the hard-pressed parent, the returned exile, the sinner and the saint. Here they may all feel warmth, the love and the hospitality of God. Perhaps as we all look at our lives in the presence of God, we might renew our determination to put our total trust in Christ and to put our feet on the way he said. He was and still continues to be.
Here then, in this Church, dedicated to the Mother of God, we might also remember that the Irish of the past had no glamourised picture of Mary. They knew that a comfortable crib was a far cry from a shepherd’s shelter. They knew the lack of hospitality in the town. They knew that motherhood was the work and calling of a lifetime. When they honoured Mary, they knew that hey honoured the woman of the whole earth who shed their life’s blood so that life could go on.
May those who use this Church be blessed, may the prayers of this place reach out to the whole earth, may the generosity of all who built it be a claim on God’s goodness to them. May the little Church high on the mountains of Tyrone be a beacon of hope in this land of ours that goes on bleeding every day from its self-inflicted wounds.
During the celebration of Mass