By Sean Ryan - 20 June, 2016
“We appreciate that there are manpower issues both within the Vincentian community and the diocese. We do not believe the announcement is the correct solution to this situation."
The race is on to save a 160 year old Cork city church from closure due to a lack of priests to serve the small parish community.
The picturesque St Vincent’s Church, which opened in Sunday’s Well on the north side of Cork City in 1856 and is owned by the Vincentian order, is due to close its doors on 30 June.
A petition with 120 names has been sent to the Vincentians, the Papal Nuncio as well as to the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, asking that St Vincent’s be kept open.
In the petition, campaigners state, “We appreciate that there are manpower issues both within the Vincentian community and the diocese. We do not believe, however, that the recent announcement is the correct solution to this situation we find ourselves in and we would request an opportunity to work with you in seeking an alternative.”
In June 2015, the community of Sunday’s Well celebrated their last Mass as a distinct parish in St Vincent’s Church prior to their integration into the parish of the Cathedral of St Mary and Anne – better known as the North Cathedral.
At the time, it was agreed that St Vincent’s church would remain in the ownership of the order and it was confirmed that the Vincentians would continue to have a presence in Sunday’s Well.
“St Vincent’s will remain open with a slightly reduced level of service with Masses taking place Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays and First Fridays.”
However, speaking to the Irish Examiner, Fr Tom Deenihan of the Diocese of Cork and Ross said St Vincent’s is not a diocesan church and the Vincentians had always provided a priest but do not have any available now.
He added that the diocese does not have a “great surplus” either.
Fr Deenihan said the community affected is very small and surrounded by other parishes.
“Much as we would like to provide a priest for every community, we cannot,” he said, pointing out that, for example, Ballincollig has two priests for thousands of parishioners.
“This is the first time in Cork City that a church has been faced with the reality of the decline in vocations. This is going to become a more common story.”
The building of St Vincent’s church is steeped in history. It was initiated with the help from self-taught architect and engineer Sir John Benson in 1851.
The foundation stone was laid by Bishop William Delaney, but the building of the imposing church on what proved to be a difficult site encountered a number of delays, notably when it was partially blown down in 1853 during a severe storm.
It was finally opened in 1856, though it remained incomplete. It was eventually completed by George Goldie and SF Hynes.
The site, which was donated by local resident, Miss Mary MacSwiney, allows the church and its adjoining missionary house to make a strong visual impact in the urban landscape, as it is clearly visible from many parts of the city to the south below.
It retains much of its original character and significant fabric to both the exterior and interior.