New Parish Priest very touched by warm welcome
new Parish Priest told the Star this week how touched he has
been by the welcome extended to him since his arrival at St.
Patrick's Church in Chapel Hill.
Father Hugh Kennedy who has come to Blaris
Parish from the Sacred Heart Church in Belfast's Oldpark area
said he was 'delighted' with his new charge.
He said he found local people to he 'very
warm' during his first weekend in the city and added he had been
very moved by the fact one of the first people to welcome him to
Lisburn had been a local Presbyterian Minister.
Father Kennedy stressed it was his
intention to build on the 'great work' carried out by his
predecessor Father Sean Rogan in the field of inter-church
"Father Rogan spoke very warmly to me of
the co-operation and fellowship he received during his time in
Lisburn from other denominations throughout the city," he added.
Father Kennedy also explained his arrival
in Blaris coincided with the beginning of what looks set to be a
Sadly, structural problems mean the current
parochial house which is around 100 years old has to be
However, before this happens a new
residence will be constructed behind it alongside a new parish
centre to replace St. Joseph's Hall.
This Centre, Father Kennedy explained, will
provide rooms in which youth groups and other organisations can
It will cater for the whole parish and all
age groups will be able to use it," he added.
"Hopefully, all the work will begin within
the next six weeks and will be completed within a year and a
Father Kennedy feels he has arrived in
Lisburn at a 'very exciting time' in its development.
"It is one of the newest cities and you can
sense there is a lot happening here," he said.
He also felt the Parish, which is the third
largest outside Belfast in the Diocese of Down and Connor offers
an almost unique mix of the rural and urban.
"I have worked in both country and city
parishes but Blaris is a combination of both," he said.
"As well as St. Patrick's at Chapel Hill in
the centre of the city, we also have Magheragall, Magheramesk
and Reilly's Trench."
Father Kennedy who is Bishop Patrick
Walsh's official Master of Ceremonies recalled previous visits
to Lisburn in this capacity.
One of these, he said, was the consecration
of St. Patrick's carried out following the renovation of the
church's interior several years ago.
"I actually had a photograph of myself on
that occasion hanging on the wall in my previous house," he
He also visited the city when Dr. Walsh
attended the recent celebrations marking 200 years of St.
Colman's Church at Reilly's Trench.
"On that occasion the Bishop said how
impressed he was not only by the loyalty of the Catholic
community there but also by the support offered by members of
other churches," he added.
Father Kennedy knows the Senior Minister of
First Lisburn Presbyterian Church Rev. Dr. Gordon Gray very
"A number of years ago I had the great
privilege of giving one of the readings at a special service in
the church," he said.
"I was warmly welcomed by the then elders
and I was very touched by the hospitality I received." Father
Kennedy is a member of the family which owned Belfast's famous
He grew up in the Malone area, his home
parish being St. Brigids at Derryvolgie Avenue, and was educated
at the adjoining St. Bride's Primary School before going on to
St. Malachy's College.
As a child he often visited Lisburn on
He also heard a great deal about Lisburn
from his family's neighbours, a Mr. and Mrs. Madden who ran a
grocer's shop in the town.
After leaving St. Malachy's Father Kennedy
took his degree at Queens University.
He also studied in Rome and Paris before
attending the Seminary in Maynooth.
He was due to be ordained by Pope John Paul
II in the Italian capital in 1981 but his ordination was brought
forward because of a need for new clergy created by the death of
four priests within the Down and Connor Diocese.
The ceremony was instead conducted by
Bishop Agnellus Andrew.
However, he was presented with a set of the
Pope's vestments for his ordination which he still possesses.
"As it turned out the Pope would not have
been able to ordain me anyway as he was shot on May 13 of that
year," lie added.
Father Kennedy's first parish was
Castlewellan in Co. Down.
He then moved to Glenravel at Martinstown
in the Glens of Antrim before going to Paris where he spent
three years taking a Masters Degree in Theology.
"I enjoyed that very much and then I came
back to Northern Ireland to work at St. Paul's Church on the
Falls Road," he explained.
"I spent two and a half years there and I
was then due to go back to Paris to finish my Doctorate.
"However, my father became ill and the then Bishop Cahal Daly
decided I should take my studies at Maynooth where I remained
for four years.
"Then it was back to Belfast to St.
Bernadettes in Rosetta before I moved to Sacred Heart where I
stayed for eight years before moving here." Father Kennedy has
just stepped down as Chairman of the Trust set up to look after
Ulster's church heritage.
He is also Chief Chaplain to the Order of
Malta in Ireland.
He is assisted in his new charge by Father
Eamonn McGorrian and Rev. Dr. Eddie Magee, a lecturer at St.
Mary's College who assists in Blaris parish at weekends.