Community move to protect and renovate historic church

Plans for a major renovation of the Church of the Assumption, Moynalty are in train, with the local community coming together to raise funds for the project.

The historic protected building, which sits on a rise on the edge of the village, has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years.

The work, which is estimated to cost around €570,000 will involve creating wheelchair access to the front of the church, new porches inside the door to incorporate a family room and toilets, relocation of stairs to facilitate the porches, the installation of a new gas heating system and radiators, attic insulation, as well as drainage works and the stopping of water ingress around the building.

It will also include replacement of wooden doors and sacristy windows, wall rendering, safety features at the galleries, enhanced lighting, new floor tiles, freshening of wooden floors and painting and enhancing the altar area to make it more open to the congregation. At all times the historic integrity of the building will be retained and where possible enhanced with better decoration and lighting.

A large crowd attended a public meeting when the architects came back to Moynalty to present the restoration plans to the community. There was a large turnout and included Parish Priest, Fr Joe McEvoy and local MCC Paul McCabe, who has been most supportive of the ongoing work.

According to Joe McKenna, secretary of the Moynalty Parish Development Committee, the work envisaged will progress as funds allow on a phased basis." The estimated overall costs are in the region of €570,000, with further outlay required in time on restoring many of the plain-coloured glass windows in the church," he said.

Fundraising has started. Volunteers have been reaching out to the community seeking financial support, visiting homes and businesses. Additionally, a GoFundMe page has been set up to facilitate online donations and it is expected that the diaspora of the parish will avail of this and contribute to the restoration fund. There are further plans in place for a fundraising event next Spring, details of which are yet to be announced. Deirdre Shannon and friends will lead a choir from the three local primary schools in a Carols concert in Moynalty Church on Saturday 9th December.

The church, then a ‘T’ shape structure, was built in 1820, on lands provided by the local catholic landlord, John Farrell, with his grant of £1,000. It replaced a stone-built church, originally mud structure, located in the townland of Rathbawn, approximately two kilometres away.

It has undergone enhancements over the years. In 1865 the Farrell family installed the beautiful stained-glass window which dominates the church. Then in 1910, the apse and two sacristies were added, giving the church its familiar crucifix shape of today. In 1976, with numbers attending mass swelling, the church was extended increasing its capacity.

In the past 47 years, the building has begun to deteriorate. Water ingress around the altar and front door took its toll, with mould forming and plaster starting to fall off. The heating system was also inadequate, coupled with an absence of insulation in the roof and the three doors that opened directly to the elements outside.

A community meeting was held in the local Muintir na Tire Hall in January this year and a committee was appointed. With the full support of the parish priest and also the Bishop of Meath, the committee has been given charitable status under the Meath Diocesan Trust. The Kingscourt firm of Niall Smith & Associates, Conservation Architects, were engaged and the committee and further members of the community set about, at least temporarily, halting the further deterioration of the church. Weekly work sessions commenced immediately, and tasks completed to date include sealing gutters and cracks that were allowing the water to enter the walls. The exterior walls were power-washed and paths and steps cleaned of years of grime. Control was taken on the overgrown foliage and lawns and the external appearance underwent a transformation.

Deep cleans were done inside and this continues each week. The walls around the altar were dangerous with plaster visibly loose and falling in places. The volunteer workers then took the bold step of removing the plaster off the walls where the damage was most evident. This has the added benefit of allowing the walls dry out somewhat in advance of the formal restoration work to begin.

The Committee has set up a Facebook page: Moynalty Church Development, with links to the GoFundMe page, also called Moynalty Church Development.