Holy Family Past and Present


Ballybricken, the Irishtown of Waterford, has existed as a thriving community outside the walls since the foundation of the city. In the streets, laneways and courts which opened off the Great Green generations have lived and died. Since 1806 the old church, Holy Trinity Without has been the centre of worship in the parish but by the 1930’s it was too small for the population of 14,000 to 15,000. Appointed as Parish Priest in 1930, Dean Byrne proposed the building of a new church in Ballybricken. Rev. Michael Phelan, C.C. ably assisted by a dedicated committee began a fundraising campaign, a campaign generously supported by the local community of working people.

On the appointment of Fr. Phelan to the Parish of Tourneena in 1941, his example and enthusiasm founded a worthy successor in Rev. Michael Farrell C.C. Many parishioners have pleasant memories of the annual carnival held in the courthouse, and later, up to 1955, in the Army Barracks; of the “spinner”, the friendly rivalry among sellers in the various stalls, the glory of appearing on the make-shift stage, in a school concert or play, the search for disappearing actors and actresses among the amusements, and above all the beat and melody of the latest “hits” over the loudspeaker. The war years brought scarcity of money and work, but no scarcity of generosity, so that by 1949 the fund had reached the considerable sum of £58,788-10s-0d. Early in 1950 the appeal addressed to all the parishes of the city for help in raising a further £52,000 was launched by the Ven. Archdeacon Kelleher P.P.V.F. Endorsing this appeal the then Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Dr. Daniel Cohalan recommended any response for “This New Church to be raised to the glory of God can well be regarded as a most appropriate offering from our city in celebration of the Holy Year, in which the erection of the Church is taking place”. It is a tribute to all concerned that when the Church was officially opened every penny of the total cost of £110,000 had been raised. It was during the thirties that Waterford Corporation decided to clear condemned areas in the city, and to relieve overcrowding.

The “Narrow Lane” disappeared and the modern expansion of Waterford had begun. Congress Place in 1932, Dominic Place in 1937, Árd-na-Gréine were indicative of the pride in the new state. “Upper Yellow Road” had replaced “Upper Military Road”, Artillery Road had become “Morrisson’s Road”. The artillery barracks had gone and it its place appeared St. Carthage’s Avenue. To the Priests and people of Ballybricken a site in this developing area now seemed more appropriate than one at the corner of Summerland, or on the site of the old jail. Approached by Canon Kelleher about a field, Mr. Michael Norris simply said, “If it’s mine, it’s yours, Canon”. Who could have foreseen the continual growth of the city, or the circumstances which should lead to the birth of a new parish in 1972, in which the church occupies such a central position. Designed by Mr. J.J. Robinson, the church was built by E. & J. Hodge. Local crafts and expertise were widely used in the construction, with Samuel Morris Ltd. supplying bricks and timber. John Gaule & Sons responsible for the electrical installation, plumbing carried out by W.P. Hodge, mahogany furniture supplied by Hearne & Co. Ltd. and decoration undertaken by Myles Kearney & Sons.

The wooden statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph were carved by Mr. Burke. On March 30th 1950 Msgr. Kelleher cut the first sod. Most Rev. Dr. Cohalan was present for the blessing and laying of the foundation stone on April 25th 1951. The Bell, named “Michael” as a tribute to the enthusiastic work of Fr. Michael Farrell C.C. was consecrated and raised on January 29th 1953. Finally, on March 25th 1954, as the New Church of the Holy Family was consecrated by Most Rev. Daniel Cohalan D.D.J.U.D. Bishop of Waterford and Lismore and the first Mass was celebrated by Dean Kelleher. The opening took place on April 25th 1954. The High Mass was celebrated by Rev. Michael Farrell C.C., Deacon Rev. J.P. Walsh, Sub Deacon Rev John Shine., M.C. Rev. Pierce Ahearne. Present were Most Rev. Dr. Cohalan D.D. Bishop of Waterford and Lismore and Most Rev. Jeremiah Kinnane D.D., D.C.L. Archbishop of Cashel. Rev Michael Canon Barron P.P., V.F. St. Peter’s & Paul’s, Clonmel, preached the sermon at a Mass which was widely attended by clergy and parishioners. The Holy Family Church has been a place of worship in which Mass has been celebrated, the sacraments of Christ administered and the word of God preached. In 1972 Holy Family became a separate parish with Rev. Charles Lawn P.P. coming as its first Parish Priest. Since then it has grown and expanded, and developed a strong identity of its own.