Photos and videos by Dylan McIlwaine and Clare O’Loan.
Hundreds of parishioners gathered in the grounds of Mary, Queen of Peace Church in Glenravel for the first ‘Big Parish Get-Together’, on Friday, 22 July.
The parish covers the ancient parish of Skerry, stretching from Slemish mountain and the Braid valley, over the mountain to Glenravel and its villages of Cargan, Martinstown and Newtowncrommelin.
The event was the idea of Fr Conor McGrath, who arrived as Parish Priest just before COVID restrictions closed most parish activities.
A parish listening process highlighted issues of isolation and loneliness in the large rural community, which became the inspiration for the very successful event on Friday.
There were bouncy castles, bumper cars, face painting and team games for young people, social space for families, and creative prayer space in the Church.
After a barbecue, parishioners enjoyed a display of local Irish dancers, and joined in for a céilí, accompanied by some very talented local Trad musicians, including members of the parish folk group.
Conn Fyfe, a Glenravel parishioner who dances for Seven Towers School, entertains with his Irish dancing talents.
Fr. Conor commented:
“Over the last couple of years we haven’t been able to really come together as a community outside of Church liturgies. Friday evening was an opportunity for parishioners to socialise, reconnect with old friends and make new ones, all in an environment of parish community.”
The event was organised by the Parish Pastoral Council, with many parish groups involved.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the parish thanked the Pastoral Council, Koinonia (a consecrated community based in the Braid), the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul, the Apostolic Work Society, Con Magee’s GAC, local Irish dancers and musicians as well as parishioners who volunteered their time and energy to make the event such a success.
While praising the event, for many the get-together was bittersweet, with the recent news that Fr. Conor will soon move parishes. Fr Paul Strain will take up the role in early August.
If this event is a marker, Fr. Paul will arrive to an enthusiastic and motivated community.
One parishioner commented:
“This was a real celebration of parish life! It will be talked about for a long time to come. We’re so sorry you have to leave us Fr Conor, but I guess we have to share you with others so they too can be touched with your spirit of joy”.