Lay Apostolates

If the faith dimension of a parish can be ascertained by the involvement of its parishioners, then Newry parish is a vibrant, living parish which is reflected in the dedicated, committed involvement of so many of the laity in every aspect of parish life.

One of many associations which have exercised an enormous influence on the life of the parish was The Holy Family Confraternity, now defunct. This Confraternity, established in 1874 and comprising circa 2,200 men and boys, was founded as a direct consequence of a four-week mission, preached by the Passionist Fathers. It had a very profound influence on the spiritual welfare of the parish community as well as forming the original Catholic Working Men's Reading Room and conducting a night school, musical and literary entertainments and lectures.

Another very important association in the life of the parish, which has been renewed in recent years by the students of St. Joseph's High School, was the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. At the invitation of Most Rev. Dr. Michael Blake, Fr. Theobald Mathew visited Newry in August 1840. He addressed the people in Hyde Market and formed a Temperance Society where 5,000, including some non-Catholics, took the pledge. In 1901, some parishioners obtained permission from Fr. Carlin Adm., to set up a centre of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart. By 1912, 3,000 Pioneers attended the mission conducted by the Jesuits. The P.T.A.A. had a tremendous impact on parish life and, under the direction of Fr. McGrath C.C., it inaugurated the annual pilgrimage to the Mass Rock in Ballyholland in 1918.

Accord, set up as the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty on the 9th. May 1967, is composed of trained Counsellors who work in a voluntary capacity.

Accord offers pre-marriage courses, post-marriage support courses, relationship counselling for couples and individuals, and fertility advice;

  • The Legion of Mary, established in Newry on the6th. September 1932.
  • The Knights of St. Columbanus.
  • The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
  • St. Joseph's Young Priests' Society.
  • The Orana Family Support Centre.
  • The Diocesan Youth Commission.
  • The Newry and District Lourdes Invalid Fund.
  • The Mercy Mission Group, based in the Convent of Mercy, Catherine Street.
  • The Apostolic Workers, situated in St. Mary's Hall, Boat Street and St. Brigid's Upper Sacristy.
  • The Baptism Team which welcomes parents and their new baby into the parish community.
  • The Bereavement Support Group, based in the Cathedral Chapter Rooms.

The St. Joseph's Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of two branches of the Society within Newry Parish. Members of the Conference are pictured here at their premises in Mill Street.

  • The Open Door, situated in 39, The Mall, which offers a listening ear, confidentiality and a friend on one's journey to everyone.
  • St. Mary's Youth Club, situated in St. Mary's Hall, Boat Street.
  • The Catholic Girl Guides.
  • The St. John Bosco Youth Club, one of the oldest youth clubs in Ireland. Their present premises were blessed by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty on Monday, 15th. October 1973. A plaque to mark the opening was unveiled by Mr. Pat Jennings, the Irish International Soccer Goalkeeper.
  • The Cathedral Bookshop.
  • St. Brigid's Repository.
  • The Parish Core Group, established in 1999.
  • The Parish Finance Council.
  • The Offertory Committee who manage the Offertory Collections.
  • Bethany House Prayer Group, founded in 1976.
  • Blessed Edmund Rice Group who gather to celebrate Mass in the Christian Brothers' Monastery, to pray for the canonisation of Blessed Edmund and to venerate his relic.
  • Dominican Laity (Third Order).
  • Secular Franciscans who are part of the Franciscan
    family and are required to pray a daily Office.
  • St. Brigid's Prayer Group.
  • St. Catherine's Bible Study Group.
  • St. Catherine's Rosary Confraternity.
  • St. Clare's Prayer Group who meet in St. Clare's Convent.
  • The Newry Branch of the Irish School of Ecumenics.
  • The Lectio Divina Group.
  • The Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Group.
  • The Purgatorian Society who meet in St. Mary's Church, Chapel Street, to pray for the faithful departed by reciting the Divine Office for the Dead.
  • The Little Flower Prayer Group which meets in St. Catherine's Priory and strives to make Jesus alive and tangible for young people.
  • The Dromore Prayer Ministry.
  • The Relaxation through Meditation Group.
  • The Falcon Club.
  • St. Colman's Indoor Bowling Club.
  • St. Martin's Twilight Club which meets in Dominican Hall and provides a social meeting place for the elderly and lonely.

Newry has a great tradition of choral music, sacred and secular. Members of the Cathedra! Senior Choir (above), and Junior Choir (below), are pictured after their respective Masses on Pentecost Sunday, May 2004.


The Christian Brothers

The Christian Brothers and first-class education are synonymous in the parish of Newry. Their arrival in Newry was at the request of Most Rev. Dr. Michael Blake, who, having seen at first-hand the work of the Brothers in Dublin and witnessing the appalling poverty around him in Newry, asked them to open a house in the town. Consequently, on the 2nd. February 1851, Brother Peter Scannell and Brother Vincent McDonnell arrived in Newry where they stayed with Mr. James Grant until they took over a house and school at the top of Chapel Street, opposite St. Mary's Church. Before long, the school was full of ragged bare-footed boys being taught the rudiments of learning and being prepared for the Sacraments. Dr. Blake provided up to a hundred breakfasts daily in the Cathedral Sacristy for the poorest of the boys. He also provided a suit of clothes and a dinner for them on Easter Sunday.

As the number of pupils increased, other Brothers joined the small community. The school became overcrowded and Mr. Felix O'Hagan purchased a site in Margaret Street on which a school `of considerable architectural beauty' - later called "The Carstands" - was completed in 1865. As this premises became inadequate for the increasing numbers, two classes were accommodated in the old Home Rule Hall - later known as St. Colman's Hall - in Castle Street and an old Wesleyan Church in Kilmorey Street was transformed into a school.

Poverty remained a severe problem and the Annals record that in 1910 "about 140 of our school boys are daily provided with a hot meal of soup, potatoes and bread in St. Colman's Hall". The main sources of income for the Brothers at this time were the annual bazaar, the annual concert and the annual sermon, preached in the Cathedral.

The Brothers then purchased the house next door at Abbey Yard for �700 which was blessed and opened by Dr. Mulhern on the 25th. November 1918. This, in time, also served as the Abbey Grammar School.

When the Primary and Grammar Schools moved to their respective new premises in 1938 and 1966 respectively, the Brothers, true to their commitment to the disadvantaged and to the people of Newry, gave over their site in Castle Street and Abbey Yard and, in June 1971, went to live in their monastery behind the Grammar School. The old site was renovated and now functions as a Conference Centre and a training centre and houses community workshops.

The work of the Christian Brothers for the people of Newry - and elsewhere - cannot be overstated. Though reduced in numbers here in Newry, they continue to work in a quiet, committed way for the people of God and their monastery remains a beacon of hope for Newry parishioners.

Dominican Fathers

Fr. J.B. Williard O.P. (above), was Newry's first Dominican prior (1871- 74). He was succeeded by Fr. Alphonsus O'Callaghan (below), (18741877). The Dominican Fathers minstered originally at St. Mary's Church, Chapel Street, until the opening of their own Church in the autumn of 1875.

The Dominican association with Newry Parish has been a long and fruitful experience for both the parishioners and the Dominican community.

In May 1870, four members of the Order of Preachers were invited by Most Rev. Dr. John Pius Leahy O.P. to conduct a month-long mission for the parishioners of Newry. As a result of this experience, a deputation of the parishioners asked Dr. Leahy to establish a Dominican foundation in the town. The latter refused their request at first because the people were very poor and he thought that they would be unable to support both the priests of the parish and the Dominicans. However, the people were determined to achieve their objective and after a decent lapse of time, approached the Bishop again, guaranteeing support of the new religious house.

Accordingly, on Tuesday 7th. March 1871, three Dominican Fathers and a lay Brother arrived in Newry. They took up residence temporarily in a "commodious house" in McAllister's Terrace, Hyde Market where a three-month tenancy had been obtained until a house in Upper Chapel Street - The Hermitage - was ready. They remained in this latter house, renaming it "Priory House", until St. Catherine's Priory was built. Two weeks after their arrival, on Sunday 23rd. March 1871, they took over St. Mary's Church where they ministered until their new Church was opened in 1875. On the 5th. November 1871, a charity sermon, delivered by Rev. C.H. Conlon, was preached in St. Mary's Church and a group of Newry ladies organised a bazaar in January 1872 to float the Building Fund.

A discussion then ensued as to whether the Church should be built in Ballybot or on the north side. This was settled when Mr. John Quinn offered the Fathers a quarry field at an annual rate of �20. Messrs. Ashlin and Co., Dublin, were commissioned as architects. In Autumn 1875, when the Church was completed, two houses adjoining the property were rented. Then, the Dominicans said goodbye to St. Mary's Church and Priory House and moved to Queen Street (now Dominic Street) on the 5th. October 1875.

On the 14th. May 1881, the foundation stone of the new Priory was solemnly laid by Very Rev. Fr. Towers, Provincial, and on the 28th. July 1882, the three-storey building in Newry granite, built by Mr. J. Lennon, was completed and occupied for the first time. The debt was cleared by a five-day bazaar, organised by the townspeople, which realised �2,300. Since then, the Dominican community has continued to give unstinted and committed service to the people of Newry, caring for their spiritual needs, visiting the sick and bereaved, organising events for young and old alike, encouraging lay participation, providing courses on Scripture and promoting Gospel values as they go their way in a quiet, unobtrusive manner.

The Sisters of St. John of God

The Sisters of St. John of God came to Newry in 1904 at the invitation of Most Rev. Dr. Henry O'Neill to take charge of Daisy Hill Infirmary, which replaced the Newry Workhouse.

Then, on the 3rd. September 1945, the Sisters purchased Courtenay Hill House from Richard Henry

McAreavey for �2,000. Although originally intended as a house for the Sisters working in Daisy Hill Infirmary, the needs of the people of Newry compelled the Sisters to convert this house into a Nursing Home for the elderly which was undertaken at a cost of �4,193.18.7. The Nursing Home consisted of a basement, ground floor and first floor and provided facilities for twenty two patients. The first patients were admitted early in 1946. By 1949, the number had risen greatly.

The hospital of the Sisters of St. John of God, opened at Courtenay Hill on 30th. March 1967. Today it accommodates St. John's House - the Southern Area Hospice.

In 1946 also, the Sisters went to work in St. Colman's College, Newry where they remained for several years.

Since the biggest demand in the Nursing Home was for surgical facilities, it was decided to provide this service and also that the existing building, which had begun to deteriorate gradually, would be replaced. This was done at a cost of �200,000 - �28,000 of which was donated by friends and former patients. This fine hospital was opened on the 30th. March 1967, providing medical, surgical and maternity services, with accommodation for forty seven patients. In the mid seventies, the theatre and annexes with Admission and Out-Patient Departments were incorporated. An agreement was reached with the Daisy Hill Hospital administration to provide six beds on a `contracted out' basis which was reviewed annually. This agreement was terminated in the late 1980s.

In December 1980, the Sisters finally got their Convent adjoining the Nursing Home on the site of what was, originally, St. Colman's College. At this juncture, the Sisters working in Daisy Hill Hospital joined the Courtenay Hill community. In July 2000, the last Sister working in Daisy Hill Hospital retired. A new initiative was begun in September 1989 when the Sisters, in partnership with the Southern Area Health Board, established the Newry and Mourne Hospice, a six-bedded unit which was to provide care

for the terminally ill, for which neither patients nor relatives were to be charged. The Hospice was blessed by Most Rev. Dr. F.G. Brooks and opened by Mr. Patrick Manson, Chairman of the Southern Health and Social Services Board. The cost of running the Hospice service was to be met by Southern Health and Social Services Board grants and by fund-raising activities. The Hospice has continued to expand and, since 1999, has become known as St. John's House - the Southern Area Hospice.

And so the work of the Sisters goes on in a quiet, dedicated manner, changing focus as the need arises, but always showing the compassion of God to those most in need.

Reputed to be the first religious order to establish themselves north of the River Boyne after Catholic Emancipation, the Sisters of St. Clare have maintained a convent at High Street (above) since 1830. Twenty-five years later the first group of Mercy Sisters arrived to Canal Street. They went on to build a large convent in Catherine Street (below), in 1862.

The Sisters of Mercy

The story of the Sisters of Mercy in Newry began on the 26th. June 1855 when, at the invitation of Most Rev. Dr. Michael Blake, five Sisters arrived from the Convent of Mercy, Kinsale, to make a foundation there. They took up residence in Ogle's Big House in Canal Street, which had been purchased as a temporary Convent from funds collected in Newry.

The first work of the Sisters was the establishment of the House of Mercy. This was quickly followed by the opening of a public laundry in 1855 to train young girls and to provide them with a means of support. The Sewing School was then established where a great number of girls were taught to earn their living by needlework, plain sewing, embroidery, fancy work and Limerick lace. This School achieved world-wide renown, winning many prizes and receiving orders from wealthy clients from as far away as Australia.

In 1858, the Sisters opened an orphanage in Canal Street, housing twelve children. When the Sisters moved to the Catherine Street Convent on the 8th October 1862, Ogle's Big House was developed as a House of Mercy and Orphanage.

On the 9th. June 1865, four Sisters from Newry founded a Convent in Rostrevor, which was followed on the 20th. August 1866 by a foundation in Lurgan. In May 1867, the Sisters got permission to make regular visitation in the Newry Workhouse and between 1902 and 1904, three Sisters worked there.

The National School was opened in Canal Street on the 24th. May 1869. Then in 1872, Dr. Leahy "wishing that the respectable Catholics of the town should have no pretext for sending their children to the Model School" (Annals) asked Mother Emmanuel Russell to open a school for the better-off, charging the same fees as the Model School. This request was granted on the 21st. November 1887 and thus began the new Intermediate School, later to become known as Our Lady's Grammar School, with a tuition fee of fifteen shillings per quarter. The new building which adjoined the National School in Canal Street was blessed and opened by Most Rev. Dr. Thomas McGivern. In 1876 an Infant School for boys was opened in Canal Street.

Then in March 1879, Mr.Thomas Fegan purchased a fine house and garden in Kilmorey Street to provide a home for needy respectable people and this was entrusted to the Sisters on the 27th. August 1879. Thus, many old ladies were spared the indignity of having to go to the Workhouse.

On the 27th. November 1888, six Sisters from Newry formed a community in Warrenpoint and established a National School there.

Due to the munificence of the Russell Family, the Emmanuel Chapel in the Catherine Street Convent was built. The foundation stone was laid on the 9th. July 1902 by Most Rev. Dr. Henry O'Neill and blessed and opened by him on the 20th. July 1904. At the request of Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern, a boarding school was opened in Newry on the 6th. September 1918. This project flourished and on the 16th. February 1923, the community in Newry got permission from Rome to take possession of the Great Northern Hotel in Warrenpoint as a boarding school. The boarders moved there on the 28th. June 1923. However, in June 1930, the boarding school was closed at the request of Dr. Mulhern and the boarders were transferred back to Newry.

On the 10th. October 1932, the Dining Hall was opened to supply the poor men and women of the town who were starving with at least one good meal in the day, which, owing to the lack of employment, they could not procure otherwise. The numbers ran into hundreds.

Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern blessed and opened the new Elementary School in Edward Street on the 27th. October 1927.

On the 15th. August 1961, five Sisters from Newry founded a Convent in Mobile, Alabama and on the 5th. September 1961, opened St. Dominic's School with an enrolment of 262 pupils which grew to 622 by 1971. The Sisters also instructed converts and visited the prison. One Sister also served as Curriculum CoOrdinator of the Diocesan Office of Education from 1976-1978 and, later, as Superintendent of Schools. In 1987, a Sister went to Minna, Nigeria, where she worked as a co-ordinator of women's development projects such as rural development, literacy and primary health care. When she returned to Newry in 1996, she was replaced by a Sister who has been training native Africans in primary education in order to improve their chances of combating poverty. She 4 has built a school - one room each year and is confident that her `trained staff' will be able to continue the work when she returns home.

The Sisters nowadays continue their work in various apostolates, each in her Own way trying to make Christ's love for humanity real, and to meet the changing needs and challenges of today's world: caring for the elderly in Homes, visiting the lonely, sick and house-bound, offering counselling services. Some liaise with the laity in groups such as St. Vincent de Paul, Simon Community, Mercy Mission Group and Cuan Mhuire. Orana House, now closeds as a Children's Home, has become a vibrant Family Support Centre, catering for all sections of society and providing a wide range of services, in conjunction with the government-funded Sure Start Project, to support families. Those victimised and marginalised by society as well as the poor are a matter of concern a to the Sisters of Mercy, who strive to strengthen and deepen their own relationship with and commitment to Christ and to joyfully and compassionately share that relationship with others in this modern, ever-changing technological world.

Sisters of St. Clare

In an attempt to alleviate the widespread poverty and misery around Newry and to meet the dire need for Catholic education, Most Rev. Dr. Kelly invited the Sisters of St. Clare to found a convent in Newry. At this point, the Poor Clares, as they were called, were contemplatives, but due to the great need for the education of the poor in Ireland, they took up the challenge of teaching in deference to the wishes of the Church.

Accordingly, on the 2nd. June 1830, Mother M. Michael Tracey and four other Sisters arrived by stage-coach to Newry. A house was purchased in High Street between an Orange Lodge and a Unitarian Conventicle and graveyard and, although they experienced some opposition at first, it was not long until they were fully accepted. On the 12th. August 1830, the foundation stone of the Chapel and schools was laid and on the 4th. October 1830, the first postulant, Miss Rice, entered the Convent.

By May 1831, there were 400 children attending the school and by 1835, this number had increased to 500, including a number of orphans. In 1832, The Newry Telegraph paid a glowing tribute to the Sisters "for their instruction of poor female children in the ways of virtue and for their rescuing the orphan".

In 1840, a workroom was opened in which embroidery and lace-making were taught which provided a means of livelihood for the girls. "In the workroom, not only were the girls trained in an art which became for some a help, for many a means of livelihood for themselves and their families, but under the fostering care of the nuns, the girls were grounded in solid Christian piety and virtue". When the Sisters of Mercy came to Newry in 1855, they took over the lace-making. In 1848, a kitchen was built in which 150 children were given a meal daily.

On the 5th. September 1857 a charity sermon "specially for the purpose of an Infirmary for dispensing medicines to poor children and for an infant school" realised �140. On the 19th. July 1880, the first stone of the Lecture Room and Children's Hall was laid. The Sisters taught in the original school until a larger one was built in 1866, when the former was converted into a Convent. By the 2nd. June 1880, the Sisters had altered, built, improved and remodelled the earlier buildings.

At the request of parents, a school for boys was opened in 1891 and a lending library made books available for the people. A two-storey Boys' Infant School was opened on the 23rd. October 1894.

A knitting industry was started in 1924 to help combat the widespread poverty in the area, caused by unemployment. A Secondary School followed in 1930 and this was followed in 1938 by a foundation in Porthcawl in South Wales.

Thus, we have in Newry a community which has, since its establishment, worked for the good of Newry parishioners, adapting its focus and emphasis to cater for their changing needs, but always committed to serving God and His people.

Sisters of Charity of Nevers

The Sisters of Nevers, founded in 1680 by Jean-Baptiste Delaveyne, a Benedictine monk, came to Newry in 1993. The mission of the Order is to show that God loves all humanity with an inestimable love. To fulfil this mission, each Sister is called "to have no other concern except that of love and no other interest except for the excluded". At present, two Sisters live in Ashgrove Park and are involved in the Newry Hospice, teaching religion in a local school, visiting and assisting the elderly and working with Women's Aid, thus living out the mission of the Congregation.


Parish Priests

Rev. Dominick Mac Ilboy, (Mac Evoy) 1704
Rev. James Mac Key, 1782
Rev. Bernard Devlin, 1793


Rev. Thomas Cranny, 1793
Rev. Patrick Mac Cartan, 1877
Rev. Michael McConville, 1887-88
Rev. Thomas Gallery, 1888-91
Rev. James Carlin, 1891-1906
Rev. John Rooney, 1906-07
Rev. Joseph Doyle, 1907-14
Rev. Daniel Grant, 1914-23
Rev. Francis J. O'Hare, 1923-23
Rev. James Fitzpatrick, 1923-32
Rev. John Magee, 1932-34
Rev. Edward James Mac Ateer , 1934-37
Rev. Patrick Francis Mac Comiskey, 1937-50
Rev. Edward Campbell, 1950-55
Rev. James Boyd, 1955-57
Rev. James Burke, 1957-60
Rev. Hugh Esler, 1960-61
Rev. Jack Lynch, 1961-70
Rev. Edward Hamill, 1970-81
Rev. Arthur Byrne, 1981-87
Rev. Arthur Bradley 1987-92
Rev. John Kearney, 1992-98
Rev. Aidan Hamill, 1998-2003
Rev. Terence Rafferty,  2003 - ad nunc

Priors of the Dominican Community

Rev. J.B. Williard, 1871-1874
Rev. Thomas Alphonsus O'Callaghan, 1874-1877
Rev. Augustine Coveny, 1877-1880
Rev. T.A. O'Callaghan, (second term), February - August 1880
Rev. Patrick Vincent Flood, 1880-1883
Rev. Thomas Purcell, 1883-1886
Rev. J.C. Lyons, 1 886-1892
Rev. M.A. Hughes, 1892-1895
Rev. M.A. Duhig, 1895-1897
Rev. D.B. Falvey, 1897-1907
Rev. M.J. Moore, 1907-1912
Rev. D.B. Falvey, 1912-1914
Rev. S.A. O'Kelly, February - December 1914
Rev. D.P. Magennis, 1915-1918
Rev. B.A. Murphy, 1918-1921
Rev. C.P. O'Sullivan, 1921-1924
Rev. E.H. Collins, 1924-1930
Rev. D.M. Fahy, 1930-1933
Rev. P.J. O'Hara, 1933-1939
Rev. Joseph Powell, 1939-1942
Rev. Aengus Byrne, 1942-1948
Rev. Paul Flanagan, 1948-1951
Rev. Michael Pius. Clery, Ph.D. 1951-1957
Rev. P.J. Long, 1957 -1960
Rev. Norbert Barry, 1960-1963
Rev. Edmund Walls, 1963-1969
Rev. John O'Rourke, 1969-1978
Rev. Raymond Collins, 1978-July 1984
Rev. Augustine Doherty, 1984-1990
Rev. Benedict Hegarty, 1990-1996
Rev. Terence McLoughlin, 1996-1999
Rev. Anthony McMullan, 1999 - ad nunc

The Cathedral bell, `Colman', was originally cast by the Sheridan foundry, Dublin, in 1862. Here it is being re-dedicated by Bishop Brooks after it was re-cast in 1987. This impressive reliquary was presented on the occasion of the Cathedral's consecration, in 1925. It contains over two hundred relics and is displayed every year, in Our Lady's side-chapel, on the Feast of All Saints.


The parish of Newry, therefore, can boast of a long tradition of endurance under persecution and difficulties, and loyalty to its faith and pastors. The parish has been very fortunate in its leadership down through the centuries whose perception and intuition overcame many daunting challenges and who endeavoured to lead the parish community through some very difficult times. It can be justly proud also of the loyalty and commitment of the parishioners who stood steadfast in time of persecution and remained loyal to the tenets of their faith and diligent in promoting spiritual, social and gospel values, at all times maintaining the dignity of each person. These values are still inherent in all areas of parish life and are implicit in all parish activities. Thus, the parish of Newry, though greatly increased numerically, remains in the twenty-first century, a vibrant, living parish community whose faith history continues to unfold in diverse ways.

St. Colman's Hall was a popular setting for dances, concerts and other social occasions in the latter half of the twentieth century. Previously the property of a local bottling company, the Trevor Hill Hall was officially opened by Newry Parish on 16th. September 1959. It was sold in 2003, with the proceeds going towards the building of a new pastoral centre and the upgrading of existing facilities closer to the Cathedral.