Ballinhassig Parish set out on marking three bicentenaries of their three churches by hosting Bishop Fintan Gavin’s first pastoral visit to the parish.
It was a different Mission Sunday. Bishop Fintan came to join in the celebration of 200 years of living and sharing faith in Goggin’s Hill Church.
Ballygarvan will celebrate the bicentenary of the church in 2022 and Ballyheada in 2023. As Bishop Fintan said “What we are ommemorating is not just a building but the faith that built these Churches and the faith that sustains them. We are commemorating a sacred place at the heart of this community. We’re commemorating a still centre in our community devoted to worshipping God.”
It was also a special coming together of the people of the faith community and particularly for the choirs in the three churches who, because of Covid, have been silent these past 20 months. The singing evoked a festive spirit and lifted hearts in joyful song to the Lord in each of the churches
Beginning in poor weather, the people of Ballyheada were delighted to welcome Bishop Fintan and they took time to chat with him afterwards and pose for photographs inside, where it was warm and dry.
Ballygarvan on Sunday morning saw an even greater congregation as many stood outside in the sunshine and joined with fellow parishioners in celebrating the Bishop’s visit after Mass for more chat and photographs.
Goggin’s Hill church was very festive. The artwork of the children from Goggin’s Hill School adorned the walls; banners hung from the doors; beautiful flowers were appropriately placed as the procession of symbols began with the oldest to the youngest taking part.
Bishop Fintan said a faith community isn’t just about the past or a building. “Looking forward as we emerge from the pandemic. We have to re-configure our parish faith communities for Mission. This is going to involve change, radical change. With a diminishing number of priests, our Church going forward needs strong lay leadership working in co-responsibility with the priests. Parish communities working together with neighbouring parish communities, sharing resources and talents. We are at the early stages of working out what that might mean.”
After unveiling a memorial plaque, many parishioners joined Bishop Fintan in the school hall for a cuppa and chat.
The concluding words of Bishop Fintan’s homily sums up the feeling of all: “It is a great privilege to be part of a vibrant faith community, but we have a responsibility too to bring that faith, intact, active and real into the next generation. May God be with us on another stage of life’s journey.”