LAST Sunday, September 4 marked an historic day in the life of the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul in Ennis.
It was on September 4, 1842 that the then Parish Priest Dean Terence O’Shaughnessy celebrated the first Mass in the O’Connell Street Church.
Although the church was far from complete, it was a great day for the 82-year-old parish priest as the financial burden of the project had been enormous at a time when many parishioners were living in extreme poverty.
The decision to build a new church was taken at a parish meeting in 1821. Seven years later, Francis Gore, a Protestant, donated a site on the edge of the town for a nominal rent.
Dean O’Shaughnessy sensed that the Church to be built would one day become the Cathedral Church of the Diocese as it was very probable that Ennis would become the future residence of the Bishop of Killaloe.
In the summer of 1828 there was tremendous excitement in Ennis caused by the by-election in which Daniel O’Connell was returned to Parliament. Financial difficulties stalled the progress of the building on many occasions.
In September 1837 there was a serious accident on the site when scaffolding collapsed and two men were killed.
Ennis Parish remembered them at the weekend, though we do not have their names.
By January 1841 the walls were ready for roofing and slating. While the first Mass was celebrated on September 4, 1842, it wasn’t until February, 1843 that the Church was blessed and placed under the patronage of Saints Peter and Paul by Bishop Kennedy.
At the time of the blessing much remained to be done including the building of the tower and steeple. The Great Famine brought all work to a halt. It was in 1871 that this work was completed.
Speaking on the anniversary, a spokesperson for Ennis Parish commented, “We reflect with gratitude for this house of prayer, serving the people of Ennis for the past 180 years and hopefully
for many more years to come.
“The Cathedral has welcomed people who walked through the door for occasions of joy and sorrow or just for a little bit of peace to connect with the Lord.
“At the present time preparations are ongoing for new floor covering for the Cathedral and it is hoped to be in place in the near future.
“Thank you and the many people of Ennis over the last 200 years whose generosity has made it possible for the Cathedral to be a house of prayer.”