A jubilant and reflective weekend of celebrations marked the 175th anniversary of St Mary’s Church in Navan on 17th – 20th October 2014.

Bishop Michael Smith celebrated the Jubilee Mass on 20th October, the precise date when, in 1839, Bishop John Cantwell dedicated the new church.

In his homily, Bishop Smith drew on the words of St Paul in the second reading of the Mass – “no longer aliens in a foreign land”.  The Bishop recalled the historical context of the post Penal Laws period in the 1830s, describing it as an era when the words of St Paul resonated in the hearts of parishioners in Navan as they witnessed the construction and opening of their new church.  This church, he said, was a visible and tangible symbol of the hope which faith brought to the community.  It was the same hope that greeted the arrival in Navan of the Loreto sisters that same decade and the Mercy sisters 20 years later.

“We can marvel at the worksmanship of this church, admire the beautiful and practical design, praise the passion of the Pastor and the skill of the craftsmen involved but, at its heart, it was as a gathering place for the people of God that this church was built.  The Gaelic description of the church – teach pobal De – gets it right.  For 175 years, people have come here to affirm, nourish and sustain their faith in God, present in their midst.  May this church continue to be a visible sign of the faith and a welcoming place for the praying and believing community, celebrating the significant moments of life but also sustaining the daily living of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

Here is the schedule of events celebrating the 175th anniversary of St Mary’s Church:


11am: Rosary with almost 2,000 primary school children of the Parish.

12.30pm: Visit to the Fairgreen Market

During its 175 years, St. Mary’s Church has echoed to the sounds of fairs and markets on the Fairgreen. A delegation from the Parish visited the Market to present a token of appreciation to the stall-keepers and to invoke God’s blessing on their trade.

8pm: Celebrating 175 years in song

Music and song has been an integral part of the life of St. Mary’s Church over its 175 years. All were invited to come to this event and to let the walls of the church resound to congregational singing of favourite hymns old and new.


11am – 1pm: Presentations on the history of St. Mary’s

A series of presentations were held at four different locations on the church grounds to cover various aspects of the history of the church.

Edward Smyth’s crucifix, by Kevin Macnamidhe
Time: 11am and 12 noon; Venue: St. Mary’s Church
The beautiful crucifix in St. Mary’s is older than the church, having adorned the small chapel that stood on the grounds before the building of St. Mary’s. It is an exceptional example of pre- Emancipation Catholic art, and Kevin presented some fascinating research.

A history of St. Mary’s Church, by Ethna Cantwell
Time: 11am and 12 noon; Venue: Parish Room, Resource Centre Ethna presented some of the background to the building of the church, starting with the Abbey of Navan, through the Penal times, to Fr. O’Reilly’s ambitious building project in the 1830s.

The vocation of the church building, by Fr. Stephen Kelly
Time: 11am and 12 noon; Venue: Vestry, via St. Anne’s Chapel
The church building fulfils a central role in the life of the Parish. Fr. Stephen explored this, with interesting insights into how the building itself speaks to our Catholic faith.

Builders, Politicians, Scholars, Priests, by Fr. Declan Hurley
Time: 11am and 12 noon; Venue: Active Retirement Room
Fr. Declan presented profiles of various priests who served in Navan – from the builder Fr. Eugene O’Reilly, to the political Fr. Tormey, to the historian Dean Cogan.

11am – 12.30pm: A celebration of Adoration – for Children

St. Anne’s Chapel was the location for a presentation and experience of Adoration accompanied by a parent/guardian.

3pm: Celebrating 175 years of Weddings at St. Mary’s

This celebration with a difference was open to all, but especially to those who celebrated their marriage at St. Mary’s, regardless of their current marital status.
The event included a presentation on the challenges and hopes that people encounter on the path of marriage by Stephen Cummins. Stephen has worked with ACCORD and frequently gives presentations on the topic of marriage today. All were invited to refreshments in the Parish Community Centre after the celebration.


11am: Mass of Commemoration

The Parish welcomed His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, as principal celebrant and homilist. Bishop Michael Smith presided. Mass was followed by a tree-planting ceremony in the church grounds with refreshments in the Parish Community Centre after the celebration.

5pm: Vigil of Adoration

Adoration moved from the Adoration Chapel to the main Church. An all-night Vigil of Adoration continued until 10am on Monday morning. The parish was been broken up into areas, and parishioners in each area of the Parish were invited to commit to one hour of adoration.


11am: Jubilee Mass

On the date on which St. Mary’s was dedicated 175 years ago, the Parish welcomed Bishop Michael Smith as principal celebrant and homilist, joined by the priests who served in the Parish in the past.

Following the Mass, students from the town’s secondary schools presented time capsules which will later be preserved in the grounds. All were invited to refreshments in the Parish Community Centre after the celebration.