Refurbishment project begins in Allenwood church

The church in Allenwood is undergoing a significant renovation and the parish of Allen is hoping to raise €100,000 to cover the cost.

The church in Allenwood is undergoing a significant renovation and the parish of Allen is hoping to raise €100,000 to cover the cost.

Allenwood is one of four churches in what is a very large parish of Allen.

To illustrate its size, the parish priest Fr. Eddie Moore explained that there are “four football teams in the parish”.

Allen covers the villages and areas of Milltown, Allen, Kilmeague, Roberstown and Allenwood – as well as a large swathe of the hinterlands of Newbridge and Rathangan.

The church in Allenwood was one of three local churches built in the 1950s and early 60’s, the others being Caragh and Rathangan.

When the Leinster Leader met up with Fr. Moore and locals Johnny O’Callaghan and Maureen Fitzpatrick last week to discuss the work, they explained that the church was always problematic.

It’s generally agreed that it’s not the prettiest of churches, inside or out - not much far removed from a bread and butter community hall, rather than a church.

As well as functional problems with the building, such as bad acoustics, the general layout just didn’t work.

In accordance with the guidance of the second Vatican Council, the trend at the time was to make the priest less remote from the congregation. In practical terms this involved moving the altar away from one end of the church, and into the middle, along the side.

“But it just didn’t work. It doesn’t work,” Fr. Moore explained.

The fact that there were less than a handful of weddings held in it is a sure sign, they explained, of how unloved the church was.

Now there are plans, which the Leader has seen, to move the altar to one of the ends, but not flat against the wall. It will still be in the centre of the church.

Work was done in 1989 to lower the ceiling in order fix the acoustics problems. There had been a terrible echo – this reporter recalls attending mass there in the 1980s and being generally bewildered as to what was actually going on.

In more recent years, the Allen Parish Committee has exhaustively researched and educated the subject of church design and architecture, as well as scripture and the concepts behind the second Vatican Council.

“A huge amount of work has gone into it,” Mr. O’Callaghan said. “There’s been terrific commitment on behalf of the volunteers.”

The total cost of the new work is likely to cost €530,000, and is being funded mainly by a mixture of a bequest from the estate of a local farmer and the sale of Annesborough House, a stately home that used to be the parochial house of the curate of the parish, based near Robertstown.

It was sold during the Celtic Tiger years, raising considerable funds which the parish is re-investing.

On another note, the parish is prepared to donate €100,000 to the people of Robertstown whenever they are ready to proceed with a mooted community centre.

Notwithstanding all of this, the parish is left with a shortfall of €100,00 which they hope to raise using various means over the coming months.

Events planned include a concert in the church, a hunt, a vintage rally, bingo and possibly even a triathlon.

Fr. Moore has also written to parishoners seeking their help in the fundraising effort. The fundraising committee also feel that there’s a possibility to draw funding from people who are from the parish but who have left it.

“It’s a challenging and exciting project,” Fr. Moore said. “And it’s even more exciting now that work has started.”

It’s hoped to get it all ready for December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, after which the church was named.

- Conor McHugh