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The Parish of Maghera is a significant part of a Faith Community founded by St. Donard in the 6th Century AD

St. Donard was a follower of St. Patrick. He built a church Rath Muirbuilc, now called Maghera, at the foot of the mountain near the sea, but he also had an oratory on the very summit of the mountain. His death is given as 507 AD. The faith community established by St. Donard  in the 6th century continues to thrive in this part of County Down.


According to Fr. James O’Laverty, Mass was celebrated in a “bohog” at Cross in the townland of Tullyree in the neighbouring parish of Kilcoo and at Burren-Rock before the erection of the old chapel at Bryansford or Ballyhafry in or around the year 1760.


St. Patrick's Church Bryansford

The Church of St. Patrick in its present form, has stood on the site as Ballyhafry Road since of 1830 and continues to be a place of private and parish prayer and devotion. St. Patrick's  was, as it is today, a sanctuary which shaped the identity of all who built, supported and maintained it. St. Patrick's was re-opened on Palm Sunday 2010 following extensive refurbishment.

Old St. Mary's Church Newcastle

Construction of St. Mary's Church commenced in 1845 under the direction of Rev. Hugh Hanna who subsequently served the Catholic community in Newcastle for a remarkable 40 years. St. Mary's was officially opened on 20 August 1854 by Dr. Denvir DD. The opening sermon was preached by the Rev. Patrick Murray DD. A new entrance porch, choir loft, steeple and belfry and spire was added in 1911 by Rev. James  McIlvenny.  The need for a new church became quite evident in the 1950's. The congregation had begun to spill out onto the street and on a rainy Sunday there was a crush as the 'outsiders' pushed in for shelter, up the stairs to the choir loft, into the side chapel and any nook or cranny available. Bikes would have been 3 deep along the church railings. St. Mary's finally closed as a place of worship in June 1966, following the opening of Our Lady of The Assumption Church.

Our Lady of The Assumption Church Newcastle

in 1958 a decision was made to build a new church in Newcastle in honour of Our Lady's assumption. An unofficial cutting of the first sod was carried out by the Very Rev. Charles Canon O'Neill, Parish Priest, on the 15 August 1963 with a subsequent blessing of the the new church site on 1st January 1964. Our Lady of The Assumption Church was officially opened on Sunday 12 June 1966 by Bishop Dr. William Philbin, bishop of Down and Connor. Our Lady of the Assumption Church is reputed to be the first circular church in Ireland. The Church is listed on the Northern Ireland Register of  buildings which have been judged to be of sufficient architectural or historic interest to merit preservation. 


Our Lady of The Assumption Church 1966 - 2016   

The 50th anniversary was marked by a one year celebration comprising a variety of events including a Parish barbecue, a pilgrimage to the summit of Slieve Donard, a Corpus Christi Camino journey to ancient church sites around Newcastle and a gala evening. Other highlights were a modern Lenten mission presented by Fr Brendan McManus SJ, author of Redemption Road, a pilgrimage to western Turkey in the footsteps of St Paul (led by Fr Colin Crossey), a Christmas carol service, a youth pilgrimage to Rome and a thank-you lunch for parish volunteers. 

The special year ended with a Mass of Thanksgiving on August 15 to mark the Feast of the Assumption. The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, joined in the celebrations. The Bishop and Fr Jim Crudden PP reflected on the past 50 years and looked ahead to the challenges facing churches in the next 50 years. The Parish of Maghera published a magazine which looked back to the building of the Church and parish life over the last 50 years. 





Enhancement of Church Organ

To celebrate 50 years of sacred music the existing organ was enhanced by Skrabl, a leading organ builder from Slovenia. A double CD album (REJOICE) of all the choirs, singers and musicians associated with the church was launched in June. A total of 250 were involved for one year in producing the 30 tracks. 





Parish of Maghera

Click image to open 50th Anniversary Magazine

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