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Irish Inter-Church Meeting

Opening Service of Welcome

Holy Family Church, Cork
5 May 2005

Words of welcome (Fr Bernard)

1. On behalf of the community which gathers here for Eucharist every Sunday, I welcome you to Holy Family Church. You are standing on holy ground! God has been worshipped in this place for the past 110 years.

2. It's a particularly appropriate venue for this evening's service, as the building has accommodated Christians of many hues over the years. For its first 54 years it was a Methodist Chapel, then since 1949 it has served Roman Catholics in this parish of St Patrick. Its history makes this one of the most unique chapels in the province

3. The original Methodist Chapel was put in place as a chapel-of-ease to serve the officers and soldiers at Victoria Barracks, which was built on the top of this hill overlooking Cork City. Work began on the chapel in 1894 and its opening took place on 25 September 1895. It might not have been remarked upon at the time, but its opening day was actually the feast of St Finbarr, whom Christians in Cork honour as their first bishop and founder of the city.

4. Photos were recently donated which depict the church as it looked in 1905. The outside looks much as it does today, but the interior picture shows an enormous organ with choir stalls and minister's desk filling all of this space.

5. When the name of the barracks changed from Victoria to Collins Barracks early in the last century, this chapel was used less and less. Eventually it closed and local people convinced St Patrick's Parish to buy it, paying for it themselves. Some changes were then made to the church, with the organ being removed, its whereabouts unknown – which is a great pity, given the church's fine acoustics: it's made for music! The altar and statues were added and the Stations of the Cross, but apart from these additions the building is recognisably the same as the Methodist Chapel it once was. Locals look at the heads holding up the pillars and wonder if these indeed are the faces of John Wesley and his wife, as a local tradition insists.

6. In 1949, on Sunday 23 October, the building was blessed by Bishop Coholan of Cork and has been used for the worship of God in the Roman Catholic tradition ever since. But acknowledging that, we also rejoice in the church's Methodist heritage and invite Cork's Methodists to remember its role in their story too.

7. We welcome you all as we continue the 110-year-old tradition of praise and worship within these walls, by the holy Church of God.