Ascension Parish, Gurranabraher


Ascension Parish, Gurranabraher

Church of the AscensionThe Parish of Gurranabraher/Churchfield, (Irish: Garrán na mBráthar – meaning the grove of the Brothers), lies in the northern suburbs; about three kilometres from Cork city centre. It is bordered by Farranree on the east, by Sunday’s Well on the west, by Knocknaheeny on the north and the Cathedral parish on the south. The Church, which looks majestically over Cork city, was built and opened on Ascension Thursday, 1955 – originally serving as an out-station Church of the Cathedral until it was canonically erected as a parish on July 1, 1969.

Ascension Church was the first of the Rosary of churches built by Bishop Corneilus Lucey on succeeding Bishop Daniel Cohalan as Bishop of Cork in 1952. Before a huge gathering at the City Hall in May, 1953, Bishop Lucey announced that he intended building five churches around the city to respond to the spiritual needs of the people – each one to be named after one of the ‘Glorious Mysteries’ of the Rosary. The 1950s saw a great programme of construction of social housing on the outskirts of the city by the then City Council to accommodate the many families who were being relocated from the inner city where conditions were cramped and unhygienic.

On ‘Opening Day’ in 1955, Bishop Lucey said:

“… We have put the House of God among the houses of His people; we have crowned this hill of Gurranabraher with this massive majestic Church of the Ascension… This is God’s House and the people’s. May it continue so, not for a generation, but for centuries, a veritable Gate of Heaven for all who shall dwell in these parts for ages to come…”.

The first ‘Priest in Charge’, Fr James Horgan, (1955 – 1963), is still fondly remembered by the people of Gurranabraher for his great pastoral initiatives – particularly the construction of the local Parochial Hall. Tough and tenacious he raised the necessary money – and enlisted the men of the parish in the construction of the hall. This hall provided the main, (sometimes the only), social amenities for this ‘working class’ parish for many years. It is remembered by older people as the place where they could watch cinema, play bingo, dance the night away, engage in drama, play indoor soccer, provide meals-on-wheels, etc.. Many found husbands and wives there. The hall still serves the community in providing excellent basket-ball facilities, ‘Meals-on-wheels’ and the Sunday night Bingo.

Others fondly remembered at Gurranabraher/Churchfield are Fr Arthur Murphy-O’Connor, its first Parish Priest, (later buried there), Fr Michael Murphy, Fr Michael Regan, Canon Michael Cahalane – and many more who ministered in this north city parish.

On September 14, 1981, Bishop Michael Murphy, entrusted the parish to the Franciscan Capuchin community – after they had offered themselves to the Diocese for work in the ‘urban apostolate’. The first Parish Priest appointed under this new arrangement was Fr Aidan Vaughan, OFM, Cap. Working alongside him was Fr Nessan Shaw, Fr John Manley and Br Patrick Keller. The Capuchin congregation, with their distinctive brown Franciscan habit, faithfully served Ascension parish until 2008, when falling vocations to the Religious life forced the congregation to rationalise. As part of that rationalisation the Capuchin community handed back responsibility for the parish to Bishop John Buckley. Many remember with gratitude the contribution of the Capuchin Brothers and Priests over the twenty six years they worked in Gurranabraher.

Ascension parish has been blessed too with the contribution of the Presentation Brothers, who have had a ‘house of formation’ in the parish at Mount St Joseph’s since 1892.

Also present in the parish since 1982, making their own distinct contribution towards building up the parish are the Presentation Sisters. Their work in the pre-school, at Scoil Padre Pio, and empowering different parish groups, especially women, have earned them the respect and gratitude of many parishioners.