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Standing room only as Finglas West bids farewell to beloved church building

By Cian Molloy - 08 October, 2018

The Church of the Annunciation, one of Ireland's largest church buildings, capable of holding more than 3,000 people, is now falling into disrepair. It will be replaced by a new 350-seat church more suited to the needs of the parish today.

The final recessional procession at the Church of the Annunciation in Finglas West, where yesterday Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin celebrated the last Mass before the existing church building is demolished. (Photo: John McElroy)

Parishioners filled the Church of the Assumption in Finglas West to capacity as they said goodbye on Sunday to the building that has been the centre of their community for more than 50 years.

The parish was established in 1962 and, to cater for its rapidly growing population, the Church of the Annunciation was one of Ireland’s largest parish churches, capable of holding more than 3,000 people. Remarkably, when the building was opened in 1967, its enormous size was almost insufficient to meet the needs of the parish.

“People came early to Mass to get a seat!” said the current parish priest Fr Eamon Cahill. “Now, for structural, maintenance and size reasons, it has to be replaced with a smaller church.”

When the existing church is demolished, it will be replaced by a much smaller building, with a seating capacity of 350 people, but the site will also hold a sacristy, a parish office centre and a pastoral centre, plus some sheltered accommodation for elderly parish members.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the chief celebrant at the last Mass to be held in the existing church, said he had travelled to Finglas West that morning with mixed feelings. “I would rather have been setting out to open a new church than to find myself closing a building that has meant so much to this community over the years.”

“We all form an emotional bond with the church where we worship most regularly, where we make our first communion and confirmation, where we are married, where our children are baptised and where our loved ones’ funerals take place.” But Archbishop Martin said that in Finglas there has been a particularly strong sense of identity with the two local churches, the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of St Canice.

Archbishop Martin said that when he is travelling around Ireland or overseas and he meets people from Finglas and asks what part of Finglas they are from, they usually answer either “The Annunciation” or “Canice’s”. He said, “Rarely do you find people who identify where they come from by the name of their parish church. This goes to show just how rooted this church building has become in the community over many generations.

“This church has been not just a landmark physically, but a landmark in the history of the community. Even those who no longer have any link with the church have an affection for it and a recognition of what this church has meant over the years for Finglas.”

Special arrangements have been made to meet the significant needs of the parish. For example, more than 100 children are baptised in Finglas West each year. While demolition and construction work is underway, baptisms will take place in St. Finian’s Oratory in the nearby Parish of Rivermount. Weddings and funerals will take place in St. Canice’s Church in Finglas village and weekly Masses will be held in St. Fergal’s School Hall in Finglas West.

Fr Cahill said yesterday: “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.”

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