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Statement from Fr. Gerry Tanham re St. Columbanus Hall

posted 2 Jul 2019, 11:21 by Lisa O'Neill





Hello to all parishioners and all who live in Howth.


You are probably aware that the sale of the Mount St. Mary’s parochial house previously occupied by Monsignor Brendan Houlihan has enabled the parish to undertake a few long overdue projects to maintain our church, to provide a modern parish centre adjoining the church, and to refurbish a parish house so that a retired priest, lay pastoral associate worker or deacon can be accommodated.


These investments are necessary to provide our parish with the facilities to function effectively for the rest of this century.


St. Columbanus Hall has for years served the parish and wider community very well, despite its obvious limitations. Many Howth people have an emotional attachment to it, which is a good sign. Our hearts, feelings and sentiment for the past are good.


So too are our heads, intelligence and planning concerning the future. I feel it is important that people are adequately and fairly informed about any issue to assist them in making informed judgements. I appreciate that many in the wider community will not be aware of the detail of how the parish reflects, discerns and decides about issues. The days when a parish priest could make important decisions on his own are long-gone. The purpose of this communication is to offer some information which I hope you will find useful.


A committee of parishioners with relevant experience has been working towards repairing the parish church and improving the parish pastoral and social facilities.

This is always a matter of repairing, developing or moving to new parish accommodation – a new ‘house for the parish’. (The bigger future challenge will be the emergence of a new form of the church – involving organisational, pastoral, doctrinal, and ecumenical development involving local and national synods – such developments will be necessary before the younger generation will get involved as stewards of our Christian tradition to continue a good, caring, moral parish presence in society where people find and give a spiritual purpose and meaning to their lives. Our repairing and renewing of the parish church and other facilities is in hope and preparation for such renewal. The core of our faith tradition has always been the historical moral/spiritual teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, rather than the rich and complex church-in-society history which has been sacred and profane, graced and sinful – reflecting God and humanity).


The repairs to the church have begun – refurbishing of nine church windows; church bell support beams replaced, twenty-eight pews replaced; wheelchair ramp upgraded and automatic door being installed; gutters and downpipes about to be repaired etc.


A report was given concerning improving our pastoral/social facilities at a Parish Information/Consultation Assembly Meeting last November attended by more than two hundred parishioners. This followed a process of assessment of several proposed designs; architectural designs for St.Columbanus Hall (SCH) and also for the church grounds site (CG) were presented, with the pros and cons of both sites being explained and discussed (eg the serious difficulties re access and difficulties in meeting modern regulations re development at the SCH site; the ground floor ease of access and covered connection to the church at the CG site etc).


The majority at November’s Parish Assembly meeting were in favour of the recommendation of the church CG site as the best option - the recommendation of the presenting Church & Hall Development Committee, the Parish Pastoral Council, the Parish Finance & General Purposes Committee, and the Diocesan Building and Finance Committees.  A minority were in favour of the SCH site option.

The Architect Sean Harrington was subsequently engaged to develop the CG site design to a stage of readiness for submission for planning approval. This will take several months.


Church guidelines re parish pastoral centres recommend that they be adjacent to the church on church grounds (local examples would include Sutton, Baldoyle, St. Mary’s Howth Church of Ireland, Portmarnock, Malahide etc). The church is the sacred space for individual and community relationship with God through prayer and sacrament, and the parish pastoral centre is the hospitable, social and pastoral space. Our monastic tradition used and still uses this same practice.


At a second Parish Assembly Information Meeting last month attended by about ninety parishioners, architect Sean Harrington presented his design concept for the CG site and engaged in discussion with all present. He answered all questions about the CG site and the St. Columbanus hall site. The large majority at the meeting were positive about the CG site plan. A small though strongly vocal minority were opposed and favoured development of the SCH site.

Subsequently at least one person who attended this meeting has been collecting protest signatures and distributing a protest pamphlet which asks people to write in protest to myself and the Archdiocese.


SCH has always been used by parish groups and community groups of all sorts. The new location will be just the same, with community groups welcome as usual – just bigger and better and more accessible - no steps, no lifts, no long zig-zag ramp and definitely more comfortable. People will be able to access the new centre easily without entering the church. It will also make social hospitality easier after religious and other events in the church – there will be a covered access from the church to the new centre. In summary we believe it will be a centre which will serve both parish and community and cater for generations of Howth people of all ages yet to come.


When it comes to selling any parish property (including SCH) which has been of service to both the parish and the wider community, we will ideally try to sell it in a way which benefits both the parish and wider community (we are currently working with a community committee (NHSCC) to achieve this concerning another parish property).

As the Archdiocese are sending me copies of any protest emails they receive, I will be happy to respond to these and any emails or phone calls I receive.


We will continue to communicate with parishioners and the wider community via the parish newsletter and website.




Gerard Tanham PP.  Howth

28th June 2019