|The Very Rev Canon Gerard McCrory: Parish Priest||The Very Rev. Desmond Loughran: Catholic Curate||Church of St.
Rathfriland Road, Finnis, Dromara.
There is currently no resident priest for St Michael’s and the parish is served by the Parish of Magheradroll whose priests are: The Very Rev. Canon Gerard McCrory, P.P. (Tel: 9756 2410) and the Very Rev. Desmond Loughran, C.C.
Sunday Mass: 10.15am
|The Very Rev. Desmond Loughran pictured at the Church of St. Michael’s, Finnis, Dromara. The Archangels, Michael, (left) and Raphael keep vigil in the sanctuary of St. Michael’s, Finnis, today.|
The Church of St. Michael The Archangel, Dromara, is a rectangular building in dressed stone, standing impressively on a hill overlooking the Dromara to Rathfriland Road. The freestone is said to have been quarried beside the Lagan River, in the townland of Dree, just a few hundred yards upstream from the church site. The facade of the church is surmounted by granite pinnacles. An ornamental granite plinth rises to a granite Cross in the centre, on which is cut the date 1835 in Roman numerals. The church was designed by Thomas Duff, Newry, a well-known architect of that time who also designed Newry Cathedral. The erection of the church began in 1825. It was completed and dedicated by Most Rev Dr Blake in 1835.
A former small chapel was located to the rear of the Parochial House. The church was re-roofed and redecorated by Rev D Mallon P.P. in 1887. However, it should be noted that the church was then known as the ‘Church of the Sacred Heart’ and an old survey map give the church this name. This name and the date, A.D.1886, are engraved on the church bell and the centre window has a picture of the Sacred Heart. It is not certain when or why the church name was changed to its present name of ‘St. Michael’, though it has been suggested that all churches built on hills were rededicated to St. Michael the Archangel.
In 1855, a sermon was preached on 4th March by Dr Leahy in Dromara church in order to defray the expenses of renovations that had been carried out. The church was re-plastered internally and the north and south walls were newly plastered, externally, from top to bottom in 1983. In 1984, a new floor was laid in the church and the building was re-wired and re-decorated. Further renovations were carried out in the late 1990s.
The outstanding points of interest are the four mural panels in the sanctuary, erected in 1911. These seem to have been the personal gift of the P.P. at that time. The four panels, which are on coloured opal glass, which has been painted and fixed, portray the Archangels Michael and Raphael and a Nazareth Scene.
The fourth panel, which is a mosaic of opal glass with a gilt background, is a very beautiful replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’. The backing of this latter panel deteriorated and the picture had to be remounted and re-stored in 1983 at a cost of almost £3000. The restoration was the gift of a local family and this is recorded on a plaque under the mural.
Further renovations were carried out on St. Michael’s, Dromara. An outside toilet block was erected in 1993. A shrine to Our Lady Of Lourdes was erected at the back of the church as a gift from the late Barney O’Hare, in 1996. The church was re-roofed, re-plastered and repainted in 1996. A new baptismal font and presider’s chair were installed and a new carpet was fitted around the altar at this time.
The cemetery dates from the middle of the 18th century. The oldest legible stone remembers Mathew Flynn, who died in 1767. Up until about 1820 some Catholic families continued to bury their dead in the cemetery of St. John’s Church, Dromara. The cemetery was levelled in 1959. New pathways and a new entrance were made in 1973.
The former school at Finnis went back to 1844 and was demolished in 1980. The new school of St. Michael’ s was formally opened and blessed on 24th September 1964, at a cost of £14,000. It was extended in 1971 at a cost of £26,000. Muninbane School, which had stood since 1836, was closed in June 1964.
The Parochial House
The Parochial House was erected by Very Rev Peter Devlin P.P. V.G., in 1840 and extended by Rev D Mallon P.P., about 1890. It was structurally improved in 1934 and re-roofed in 1959. Central heating was installed in 1969, while water and electric mains were laid in 1959. In 1974 a second bathroom and a new set of stairs were erected.
The Parochial Hall
The new St. Michael’s Hall was formally opened and blessed on Sunday 3rd February 1980. The old green wooden hall, which had stood since 1920, was demolished.
From 1933, the parish of Dromara was served by the parish priest alone. However in August 2002, due to the shortage of priests, the parishes of Dromara and Magheradroll were once again paired. There is currently no resident priest for St Michael’s and the parish is served by the Parish of Magheradroll whose priests are the Very Rev Canon Gerard McCrory, P.P. and the Very Rev Desmond Loughran, C.C.
Compiled from an article written by Dean Anthony Davies, published by the Dromore Diocese Historical Society in 2004.