Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

Glenfin (Kilteevogue) Parish

The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual, when it was blessed and opened by the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr. William McNeely on Sunday June 18th 1928, replaced the parish church which had served the parish for 103 years since it first opened its hallowed doors in 1825. At that time Kilteevogue and Stranorlar were still united as one parish. However, Fr. Michael Doherty, who was Parish Priest of Stranorlar had St. Eunan’s Church built for the people of the western end of his extensive parish now known as the Parish of Kilteevogue. It was interesting that Fr. Doherty chose the site in Kiltyfergal for the church because the local landlord of the time, Sir Charles Styles, had offered £100 and a site for a Catholic church as long as it was built at the western end of his demesne in the village of Brockagh. But the people preferred the present site in the eastern part of the demesne. Reluctantly Sir Charles gave in. But he reduced his promised contribution to £50. Later on, however, he gave the balance of £50 and he congratulated the people and the priest for being able to complete the church and pay off all that was owed for its construction.

In 1836 Kilteevogue was established as a parish on its own and the first parish priest was Fr. Hugh Friel. He was replaced around the year 1838 by Fr. William Ramsay, a native of the parish. It is very interesting to note that he was son of the Protestant Rector of Kilteevogue, the Reverend John Ramsay, who was also a first cousin of Sir Isaac Butt.  Fr. Ramsay’s mother was Roman Catholic and her son studied for the priesthood in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he proved to be a brilliant student. There was no residence at that time for the priest in the parish and Fr. Ramsay soon put matters right by buying, with his own money, a small house and farm from a Mr. John Arnott, who was a member of the local Church of Ireland community. According to tradition a ‘Sheebeen’ existed in that house and it has been said that Fr. Ramsay thought that, having an unlicensed premises wherein liquor could be bought and sold so close to the chapel, was not very desirable. So he bought the house, closed the ‘Sheebeen’ and now he had a home close to the new parish church!!!

St. Eunan’s church had three galleries and was known to many local people as ‘Teach Pobail, Bhaile an Dúin’, perhaps hinting at an ancient fort (dún) in the area guarding the waters of the River Finn.

Fr. Ramsay died on Tuesday November 30th 1869 and he was replaced by Fr. Michael O’Friel. In1887 he was replaced by Fr. Edward Gibbons and he in turn was replaced by Fr. Anthony Gallagher in 1909.

By far the oldest person who was ever buried from St. Eunan’s Church was a man called Neil Boyce from Aughavoy. According to the parish Liber Mortuorum (Register of Deaths) Neil died on the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, August 6th 1927. He was, at the time of death, 115 years old. This means that he was born in 1812, the year Napoleon made the fatal error of invading Russia only to be routed by the severe Russian snows. It means also that Neil Boyce was a young man at the time of the Great Hunger. Neil Boyce was laid to rest in Kilteevogue, after that enormous journey across the pages of time, on the Feast of St. Dominic, Monday August 8th 1927. Fr. John Murray celebrated his funeral Mass.

St. Eunan’s Church served the people of the parish well for more than a century and is now the Parochial Hall and still being well used by the people of the parish for many functions.

As time marched on it was deemed necessary by the parish priest of the time, Fr. Anthony Gallagher, and the people of the parish that a new church was needed to cater for the vast numbers of people attending Mass and so on Sunday the 27th of September 1925, at the request of Fr. Anthony Gallagher, Bishop William McNeely, Bishop of Raphoe, blessed and laid the foundation stone of the new church. Sadly Fr. Anthony’s health was failing and he died just exactly one year later on Monday September 2 7th 1926 aged 66 before he could see his dream fulfilled. He was laid to rest adjacent to that fine church that will always be a memorial to his brave decision to begin its construction during a very difficult period in Ireland’s history. It was left to Fr. John Murray, the new parish priest and to the loyal parishioners of Kilteevogue, to bravely pick up the mantle and complete the task begun by their revered and late-lamented pastor. The new church, dedicated under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, was blessed by Bishop McNeely on Sunday June 18th 1928. It was the first church in Ireland dedicated under that title. To the east of the sanctuary, surrounded by a magnificent angel-group carved out of brilliant white Carara marble, is an authentic copy of the original Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. It is painted on cedar wood and is said to have touched the original image enshrined in the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome. According to an ancient tradition the original image was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist.

The church is indeed an imposing structure overlooking the ever-flowing waters of the River Finn and under the shadow of Altnapaste Mountain. It is a solid structure of Mountcharles sandstone and local Glenfinn limestone and is designed according to the Irish Romanesque style, popular in Irish churches of that period. It can seat about 800 people. The interior is lofty, the windows are tall and bright reflecting within and without the Romanesque style in the many instances of rounded windows and arches. The exterior roof is made of Westmoreland Green slates and the interior ceiling is of California and Oregon pine.

The altar is carved from white Carara marble. The sculpted figures at the front of the Altar tell the story of the Breaking of Bread on the Road to Emmaus and the reredos, behind the altar, is made up of a rich tapestry of Irish, French, Belgian and Italian marble panels. The High Altar and Reredos were donated by Mr. Anthony Carlin of Tonduff and Ohio while the side Altars were donated by Miss Annie Kelly, Cloghan and by relatives of Maurice Kair and Miss M. Gallagher, Chicago. A plaque close to the west side of the sanctuary commemorates the generosity of Mr. Carlin. There were many other benefactors as well.

Above the main altar is suspended a beautiful silver Sanctuary Lamp. On it is the following inscription: “This Sanctuary Lamp and the Statue of the Little Flower were presented to the Parish of Kilteevogue by a sincere friend in affectionate memory of the late Michael F. Gallagher, M.D. of Philadelphia whose paternal ancestors resided within the parish. Kind reader pray for the repose of his soul.”

The baptismal font is of white Sicilian marble supported by round pillars of Galway Green and Cork Red marble.

Another plaque on the wall honours Bishop James Hannigan of Wrexham & Menavia, Wales, who was the first child to be baptised in the church on Sunday the 15th of July 1928. There were twin girls, Brigid and Maggie Anderson of Kinaderry, baptised on that same day. James was the first priest to be ordained in the church in 1954.

The original floor of pitch pine and tile was designed to last the test of time. The Oratory, dedicated in honour of Our Lady of Fatima was blessed by Most Reverend Dr. Philip Boyce, O.C.D., Bishop of Raphoe, on the day of Confirmation, Saturday May 9th 2017.



Glenfin (Kilteevogue) Parish