The new Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, attended the bi-centenary celebrations at St Mary’s Church Kilsaran on Saturday evening.
He was welcomed by Fr Phelim McKeown, the new parish priest of Kilsaran.
After Mass parishioners gathered for refreshments at the O’Connell’s GFC clubrooms.
The foundation stone of the church was laid on 18 July 1814. The belfry was erected in 1856. It was built by Rev Thomas Corrigan PP in 1856.
The church’s stained glass windows are in memory of those who contributed towards its building.
There are mural tablets in memory of the Chester family from Williamstown and to former clergy of the parish.
This was one of the archbishop’s first functions in the diocese since he took over from Cardinal Brady. He has appealed to people in parishes across the diocese to “join me in this humble renewal of our Church”.
He said he is looking forward to serving the people of the 61 parishes in Louth, Armagh, Derry, and Tyrone. And of course, he is also parish priest of Dundalk.
As he succeeded Cardinal Sean Brady, he reminded people that he was ordained a bishop just a month after the election of Pope Francis.
That was not a casual remark. Pope Francis has inspired Catholics and impressed non-Catholics all over the world with his new beginning or putting a ‘fresh heart’ into the Church, as Archbishop Martin has put it.
Many believe this new beginning is what the Church needs. In the same week as the archbishop’s succession, former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, was giving a lecture in Sydney on the need for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland to adapt, to let the old guard go, to listen.
Archbishop Martin has said:
“I am certain that a humble renewal in the Church in Ireland will only come about as our lay people exercise their specific vocation and mission to hand on the faith and insert the Gospel into the reality of their daily lives and work.”
This is a chance for a new beginning for the Church in this country, for a leadership that is needed after all it has been through: most of it self-imposed.