Locals Vow to Fight Sale of Church in Holy Row

By Anita Guidera
Irish Independent
August 25, 2008

A HOLY row has erupted between parishioners fighting to keep a small church open and the priest who wants to sell it.

Father Seamus Dagens gave parishioners at Drumholm, Ballintra, Co Donegal, a chance to oppose the sale of the disused church by writing 'No' on their collection envelopes at Mass yesterday. But most refrained from writing anything, thus apparently, giving the go-ahead for the building to be sold.

The priest angered some of his flock a week ago when he removed the tabernacle from the tiny St Colmcille's chapel, where there has been no Sunday Mass celebrated for five years.

He then asked parishioners who disagreed with his proposal to sell the church to write 'No' on their envelopes during the weekend collection from Mass goers at the much larger St Bridget's church near Ballintra village.

He revealed afterwards that only 50 households in a poll of 417 indicated that they did not wish the building to be sold.

But campaigners trying to retain St Colmcille's, which served a small community in the Laghey Barr area of the parish, claimed the poll did not reflect local opinion.

Members of the Laghey Barr Association claimed the poll was undemocratic and deprived many of a vote, since they had been withholding contributions in protest at the down-scaling of St Colmcille's five years ago.

Members of the association complained that the removal of the tabernacle from the chapel was against Canon Law.

Yesterday, Fr Dagens said he would reflect on the findings before making a final decision.

He reckoned that the St Colmcille's site -- large enough to accommodate "a four-bedroom cottage at most" -- would fetch about €100,000.

However, with the downturn in the property market he felt it was unlikely there would be a sale for at least two or three years, if he decided to sell.


He explained that with no Masses being said in Laghey Barr because of a shortage of priests, the chapel was an unnecessary drain on parish funds. He would use the money from a sale to fund an extension to Laghey National School.

Fr Dagens also said he plans to place the St Colmcille's tabernacle on an altar in a side-room in St Bridget's. That would enable him to make savings on the heating bill by having week-day Masses said there during winter months.

Protesters said they are still determined to retain the Laghey Barr chapel. They are seeking further advice on the matter.

Laghey Barr Association secretary Anne Gallagher said: "We just want a chance to run the chapel ourselves and source our own priest so we can have one Mass here during the week."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.