Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, celebrated a Mass on 26 March to re-open the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Rathlin Island, Co Antrim.
Rathlin Island is the northernmost inhabited Island off the island of Ireland. The Church of the Immaculate Conception is the northernmost church in the diocese of Down and Connor and serves a community of 150 people. The church was closed to allow for urgent repairs and improvements to accessibility, funded by the parish and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In his homily, Bishop Treanor said, ‘As we re-open this Church we are mindful that this historic and island congregation, like our local Church in this diocese of Down and Connor, constitutes a living cell of the universal Church. We are a living cell of the family of peoples who make up the Church and the entire Christian people throughout the world and in the continuum of human history.
‘Here on Rathlin throughout the centuries, parishioners have gathered in prayer and worship and thus were enlivened and renewed in faith and grace, as we are in our time by celebrating the sacred liturgy, the sacraments and taking part in popular devotions, such as pilgrimages.’
Bishop Treanor reflected on the history of the church on Rathlin Island, dedicated in 1865 by Bishop Patrick Dorrian, adding, ‘As part of that global mosaic, each local constituent reflecting the particularities of local culture, history and identity, we all have a shared responsibility for the vitality and concrete impact of the gospel, its values and vision, in our time.’
He continued, ‘At the same time, no man is an island! And for all the lore concerning the Charybdis Brecani, Sloch na mara, the conflux of the different seas on Rathlin’s shores, that have made access difficult, today Rathlin, like ourselves, is part of a world and of a society which, for all the achievements of modernity, is now searching for, indeed sometimes screaming for, ultimate meaning, purpose and hope. Living in the world-wide-web we cannot escape the questions and challenges of human existence in our times.’
Noting the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Bishop Treanor also said, ‘we stand in urgent need of that same political ingenuity and restorative faith in humanity at local level here in Northern Ireland, in Europe at the level of our weakened institutions of global governance.’
He concluded, ‘Today we pray that this Church, now repaired and renewed, will continue to offer an oasis where thirst of God and knowledge of Jesus Christ and faith-inspired contribution to society will grow and be fostered.’