Final Mass in one of Ireland’s largest Catholic churches to take place in Dublin

‘When first built it was almost too small – people came early to Mass to get a seat!’

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will celebrate a final Mass in the Church of the Annunciation, in Finglas West, one of the largest churches in Ireland, at 11am on Sunday.

It was opened in 1967, when John Charles McQuaid was archbishop of Dublin, with a capacity for 3,500 worshippers. Similar-sized churches were built at the time in Donnycarney and Artane.

The Church of the Annunciation is to be demolished to make way for a smaller church building accommodating 350 people, as well as pastoral facilities such as meeting rooms, a coffee/tea dock and offices, and housing for the elderly.

These days an average of 800 to 900 people attend Sunday Mass there. Falloff in regular Mass attendance has left such churches underused and parishes have struggled with high maintenance and running costs.

The Church of the Annunciation had been falling into disrepair for many years and upkeep of the enormous building was proving impossible for the parish to sustain.

A posting on the church's Facebook page last April stated that "having experienced the cold of this winter, it is important that we don't experience another winter in this church". During "the Beast from the East" storm last spring church events there had to be moved to a local primary school.

New church

Led by parish priest Fr Éamann Cahill, a consultation process with parishioners on the church’s future took place over recent years. It concluded that a new, smaller, modern church and pastoral centre would be the best option.

Supported by the Dublin archdiocese and in consultation with Dublin City Council, the parish endorsed proposals to demolish the larger church and redevelop the site.

In the interim, while the site is being cleared and a new church built, Masses will take place at the local St Feargal’s school hall while funerals and weddings will be in Finglas’s St Canice’s church and Baptisms at St Finian’s oratory in Rivermount parish, Finglas South.

On average, more than 100 children are baptised in Finglas West every year.

‘Poignant occasion’

In a message to parishioners, Fr Cahill said Sunday’s “very poignant occasion” would be “a celebration of our parish as we embark on challenging times ahead”.

The Church of the Annunciation had “served the parish well. Imagine, when first built it was almost too small. People came early to Mass to get a seat! Now, for structural, maintenance and size reasons, it has to be replaced with a smaller church,” he said.

“Whilst some might think of today as being a sad day, in some ways maybe it is. However, we need to look forward with a sense of joy and anticipation of what the future will hold for us. We are very lucky that Finglas West has such a strong sense of community spirit. The people make a parish.

“We give thanks for those who have gone before us. What a legacy, what a gift they have left us! May we not be found wanting in our vision, our energy and our faith.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times