St Anne’s Parish History

St. Anne’s Parish was established in 1994; prior to that it had been part of the Parish of Derriaghy. Evidence shows that there has been a Church in Derriaghy for more than eight hundred years, but little is known about it.  Some believe that St. Oliver Plunkett martyred in Tyburn in 1681, may have ordained Phelomy O’Hamill as Parish Priest in 1667.

In 1704 Fr. O’Hamill became Parish Priest in Derriaghy.  He was arrested in 1707 and imprisoned in Belfast Gaol and died there in 1709. When St. Patrick’s Church, Barnfield Road, Derriaghy was built in1733 there were only six Catholics in the town of Belfast, then part of the Parish of Derriaghy.

The Parish was geographically very large.  It included not only Derriaghy, Lambeg, Dunmurry, Finaghy, Kilwee, Killeaton, Olde Forge, but also those areas known as Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore, as well as most of the area that today lies within Belfast City Boundary.  In 1812, Belfast became a separate Parish, slightly diminishing the status of Derriaghy.  However, the Catholic population grew steadily and it was necessary to create new Parishes from the old Parish of Derriaghy.

In 1955 it was divided into four new parishes – Derriaghy, St. Teresa’s, St. Agnes’ and Hannahstown.  The continued growth in the number of Catholics in the area led to further Parish Divisions; in 1976 Twinbrook became a separate parish under the name of St. Luke’s; in 1980 the new Parish of the Nativity, Poleglass, was established; in 1994 St. Anne’s separated from Derriaghy; in 1996 the Parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace was created; and finally in 2000 the Parish of Christ the Redeemer was created. 

Canon Patrick Boyle, Parish Priest of Derriaghy opened the Oratory of St. Anne’s at Rathmore on the 19th December 1948.  It had previously been used during World War II as an army meat store.

The Oratory continued to be used until the then Parish Priest, Fr. James Kelly made the decision to replace it with the new Church of St. Anne, which was blessed and dedicated on 5th December 1982 by then bishop, later Cardinal Daly.

Subsequently St. Anne’s Church was substantially re-built and solemnly re-opened, and the new altar dedicated by Bishop Patrick Walsh on 2nd March 2008.  Father Eddie O’Donnell was Parish Priest at the time.

The estimated Parish Catholic Population is now 6,520.

One wonders what Fr. Phelomy O’Hamill would have thought as he sat in Belfast Gaol if he could have foreseen the survival and growth of the faith in this area!

The words of St. Patrick in his “Confession” reflect our own hope today:

“My own prayer to God

is that it may never happen

that I would lose His people

which He won for Himself

at the end of the earth”.

 Rev. Feargal Patrick Mc Grady, Parish Priest Saint Anne’s.

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