Church gem in Creeslough reaches major milestone

ST Michael’s Church in Creeslough will mark a big milestone this weekend when it will turn fifty on Sunday. 
The iconic structure was the fifth in a series of seven churches designed by renowned architect Liam McCormick.
The church was built by John Hegarty as a replacement for the old church at Doe. The church in Doe was built by Father Bernard Rodan, a native of the parish, in 1784 and rebuilt by Father Peter Gallagher in 1830. It was the oldest church in use in the Diocese of Raphoe and had
served the people of the community for close to two centuries.
The site was said to have been acquired by Father Ennis Mc Bride who died in 1794 and is buried in Clondahorkey graveyard. Another story is that the priest was a Franciscan, Father Dominic Curden, who died in 1809 and is buried at Doe Castle. He asked the landlord, William
Wray of Ards, to grant a site for the chapel. Father Dominic was a cousin of Father Rodan. Until then, people had to attend Mass at various Mass Rocks – Cashelmore, Creenera, Carnamaddy, Creeslough, Kilmacloo, Gortnalake and Sandhill.
The new church was built near to and in sight of the Mass Rock at Cashelmore.
The opening of the new church on August 15, 1971 by Most Rev. Anthony McFeely, Bishop of Raphoe marked the beginning of a new chapter for the community. Mass was celebrated by Fr James Deeney CC and the village was decorated with bunting and papal flags for the occasion.
On the day the church was crowded to capacity and the ceremonies were relayed over a public address system to some hundreds of people who had to remain outside. As the Bishop arrived he inspected a Guard of Honour drawn from D Company, 24th Battalion FCA under Lieut C Gallagher. Tea, cakes and sandwiches were laid on for everyone thanks to the late Mrs. Mona Gibbons and her “staff” of twenty helpers.
Her brother, Father John Silke, was involved in the church opening that day.
The new church was commissioned by Bishop McFeely who commissioned many of McCormick’s churches in Donegal.
St Michael’s is considered one of McCormick’s most innovative and striking commissions.
The design is influenced by Le Corbusier’s the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France and reflects the humped form of Muckish Mountain and integrates it into the rugged landscape.
Fr Tommy Doherty played a very significant role in the building of the church and undertook a huge amount of fundraising. The building costs overran by £10,000, a very significant amount at the time. Fr Doherty led a fundraising drive and it was very much an entire parish effort. He managed to secure loans from other parishes and went on a tour of the US to raise funds for the project. He was joined on the tour by people from Letterkenny including Dan McTeague.
The foreman involved in the project was John Mc Laughlin from Fahan, the Clerk of Works was Cathal Boyd from Toomebridge and art works were designed by Helen Moloney, Veronica Rowe, John Behan and Ruth Brandt.
The stained glass windows to the Blessed Sacrament chapel, depicting images from stories in the Bible, is the work of Helen Moloney. The baptismal font, the cross with ‘the crown of thorns’ to the south-east of site and the tabernacle were designed by John Behan. The altar tapestry was also designed by Helen Moloney and executed by Veronica Rowe.
The bell from the earlier church at Doe was reused at the freestanding belfry and some of the flagstones were also taken to be placed in the forecourt of the church.
Fifty years on, this Sunday will mark an important day for the community when First Holy Communions will be once again held in the church. All celebrations to formally mark the fiftieth anniversary have been put back until next year due to the pandemic.
Parish Priest, Very Rev Martin Doohan is very much looking forward to being able to mark the milestone in 2022.
Curate, Fr John Joe Duffy said: “I would like to pay tribute to the parish of Clondahorky and in particular the church area of Cresslough who have continued to build up the church in this area. They have not only taken great care of the physical building but the living church in nurturing the faith of the area and passing that faith on from generation to generation. It is lovely to see so many young people coming to church on Sundays.
“I wish to thank Fr Doohan,  Fr Seamus Murphy, retired priest of the Diocese of Westminster, and the Capuchin Friary at Ards for their contribution to this parish community.”

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