United Dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry
The Aughaval Group of Parishes – Westport
Where We Are
The Aughaval Group of parishes is located in west Mayo and includes Achill Island, which is connected by bridge to the mainland. Apart from Achill, which is 50 km from Westport, the other three churches are within 25 km of each other.
The Rector resides in Westport which is, according to the panel that chose the town as the recipient of The Best Place to Live in Ireland Award (2012) , ‘a beautiful place, well-kept and pleasant to visit…it is a community of people working together to make the best of the town’s many advantages. Indeed, community spirit through cooperation is a hall mark of the town’. The town has also won both regional and national tidy towns awards. Westport (c. 6,000 pop.) is a premier tourist destination, popular with holiday makers from all over the world. Croagh Patrick, where St Patrick is reputed to have spent forty days and nights, is approx. 5 km from the town and continues to be a major pilgrimage site.
Westport with Croagh Patrick in background
Castlebar (18 km from Westport) is a thriving market town and is the administrative centre of the county. It boasts a number of international chain stores and enjoys a rich diversity among its population of c. 12,000, with many different nationalities choosing to make it their home. The Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and Mayo University Hospital are situated in the town.
The Mall, Castlebar, with Christchurch in the background
Achill Island is the largest island (148 km2) off the coast of Ireland and is home to over 2,700 inhabitants, although this number swells considerably during the holiday months. Marked by rugged mountains and bogs, the island is known for its high sea cliffs and clean beaches – the beach at Keem Bay inspired visiting writers Heinrich Böll and Graham Greene. Its breezy shoreline makes it a popular spot for water sports. St Thomas’s Church is located in Dugort on the north of the island.
Keem Bay, Achill
Turlough is a village 6 km north-east of Castlebar. It is rich in history and the surrounding countryside is dotted with standing stones. The Turlough 9th century Round Tower is one of the most complete and best-preserved round towers in Ireland. The Museum of Country Life (part of the National Museum of Ireland) is located in Turlough’s ‘big house’, the former home to the Fitzgerald Family. The Museum incorporates the estate’s fully restored house, built in the High Victorian Gothic style. Turlough Church is situated 1 km from the village.
Round Tower, Turlough
The area is well served by rail and bus links. Westport railway stationis a terminus station on theDublin–Westport rail line, while Castlebar is an intermediary stop. There are at least four daily services each way on the line. In addition, there is an excellent bus service with connections to all parts of the country.
There is an extensive national primary route network in the county, including the N5 road connecting Westport with Dublin via Castlebar, and the N17 road which connects Mayo with Galwayand Sligo.
Ireland West Airport Knock, with flights to a number of UK and European destinations, is located c. 50 km from Westport, with Shannon International Airport just over two hours away.
Westport has four primary schools, including a Gael Scoil and Holy Trinity Church of Ireland School, with plans to open an Educate Together school in the near future. There are two secondary schools. Both Westport and Castlebar have Colleges of further Education and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), situated in Castlebar, offers a wide range of third-level degree and postgraduate courses. The National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Institute of Technology, Sligo are both just 80 km away.
Sport and Leisure
An extensive range of sporting activities, from martial arts to racquetball, basketball, swimming, horse-riding and gymnastics, is to be found in the area, in addition to active rugby clubs in Westport and Castlebar and numerous GAA and soccer clubs throughout the county. There are a number of excellent golf courses, including the 18-hole championship course in Westport. Proximity to the coast, with its pristine beaches, provides ample opportunity for water-sport enthusiasts, with sea-kayaking, surfing, kite-surfing, wind surfing, sailing, etc.
The Great Western Greenway is a 42-km long greenway trail that starts in Westport and ends in Achill, passing through the towns of Newport and Mulranny as it runs along the coast of Clew Bay. It is an off-road trail intended for use by cyclists and walkers.
Mayo is considered a key destination for angling enthusiasts. Its numerous lakes are renowned for their top-quality wild brown trout fishing and its deep-sea angling centre is located at Clew Bay. The Moy River is regarded as the most important salmon river in the country.
Fishing on the Moy
Arts and Culture
Individual and community involvement in the arts is encouraged, where budding writers, artists, performers and musicians of all levels of experience are welcomed and much supported by the local Council Arts Office.
Castlebar is home to The Linenhall Arts Centre, which exhibits visual art throughout the year, as well as hosting live drama and music performances. The Linenhall also organises an annual children’s arts festival. The Royal Theatre and Event Centre, with a capacity of 2,200 fully seated and 4,000 standing, hosts larger-scale productions and popular music concerts. The Town Hall in Westport is a multi-disciplinary performance and exhibition space and hosts local, national and international shows, while the Custom House provides studio space for artists and gallery space for exhibiting contemporary art.
The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, in Turlough, was the first branch of the National Museum of Ireland to be located outside of Dublin. The Museum is home to the National Folklife Collection and portrays the lives of ordinary people in rural Ireland in the period 1850–1950, emphasising the continuity of lifestyle traditions that had been established over several hundred years and that had lasted well into the twentieth century.
There are various locations in the area that host important festivals and events, including the International Four Days’ Walk and the Children’s Arts Festival in Castlebar; Westport Arts Festival, Rolling Sun Literary Festival, Chamber Music Festival in Westport; and the Scoil Acla traditional music school, International Harp Festival and the Heinrich Boll Festival in Achill. The International Choral Festival is held in various venues throughout the region.
Museum of Country Life, Turlough
The four parishes of the Aughaval Group, Westport, Castlebar, Turlough and Achill, are distinctive and each has its own administrative Select Vestry.
‘Openness’ is a word which perhaps best describes the ethos of our group. Openness, not only within and between each parish within the Group, but also towards the wider social and religious communities. The people of all the parishes are deeply involved, both individually and within local organisations, in the life of their area. Each parish joyfully embraces the reciprocal relationships between it and the community within which it plays an integral part through the sharing of both material and personal resources.
Parishioners across the group are actively involved in the Church’s ministry and each parish has a number of parish readers, with one Diocesan Reader, based in Castlebar. An Ordained Local Minister (OLM) has recently taken up duties in Achill.
Parish members hold positions on diocesan and national church bodies including the Diocesan and General Synods.
Recognising the need to value the children of our parishes and the need to provide support for parents, clergy and congregations, there is an active youth ministry within the Group.
We support Holy Trinity National School in Westport and the recently founded Sacred Path retreat centre in Dugort, Achill.
St Thomas’s Parish, Dugort
St Thomas’s Church is located in Dugort on Achill Island. The church was founded in the mid-19th century by the famous Rev. Edward Nangle as a Mission Church. Much has changed since its turbulent history of inter-church rivalry! Its congregation is very involved in local activities and the cooperation between the different churches on the island is very much in evidence.
St Thomas’s Church
St Thomas’s Parish is a small parish community that works hard to maintain this church. In summertime, when there are visitors to the island, many of whom have been coming for generations, there are services each Sunday at 11.30 am, at which the numbers attending range between 15 and 30. The Bishop makes his annual visit in August of each year. In wintertime there is a small community of seven to eight and services are held on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. The annual Harvest Service in September can have a congregation of up to 70, and the Christmas Carol Service likewise, as the local Roman Catholic parish communities like to join us on these days.
Recently the vestry of St Thomas’s Church bought a building in Dugort which is an original part of the 19th century mission and is also close to the church. The building will be used as a facility for the Sacred Path ministry and for the whole community on Achill Island.
The Sacred Path ministry is a new spirituality and retreat centre for the Diocese and the wider church and is currently coordinated by the local Ordained Local Minister (OLM) under the direction of the Rector.
The congregation of St Thomas’s is also open to explore how the new facility can be used for wider interreligious understanding and sharing spirituality.
Currently, most of the services are taken by the OLM, who resides on the island. It is hoped that the new Rector will take one communion service per month during the period of the OLM’s deaconate, lead occasional services, and support the objectives of the Sacred Path and the centre’s coordinator.
Holy Trinity Parish, Westport
Holy Trinity Church, located in Westport is a particularly beautiful and important building. Consecrated in 1872, Holy Trinity is the last Church of Ireland church built before the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871. The Ruskinian, early Arts and Crafts interior took a further 20 years to complete. The graceful pencil spire is visible from almost every approach to Westport. The church is currently undergoing a major restoration project under the guidance of the Select Vestry’s building restoration committee.
Sunday services are held at 11.30 am, generally Holy Communion, with other services held throughout the year according to the liturgical calendar e.g. Easter, Lent and Christmas. Holy Trinity also hosts joint group services including confirmations, special family services, etc. There are average weekly attendances of approx. 40–50, with significantly greater numbers during the holiday season. The congregation is richly diverse with people who have settled here from all over the world. The Carol, Harvest and Gospel Music Services draw strong representation from the local community.
Holy Trinity Church
Several Holy Trinity parishioners have played leading roles in the success of the local interchurch EcoCongregation and shared significantly in a recent 10-week interchurch Alpha programme.
Local festivals appreciate and need Holy Trinity’s hospitality for concerts annually, at a very modest cost to the organisers: International Choral festival, Chamber Music Festival, Folk and Bluegrass Festival, Arts Festival, Rolling Sun Festival, etc. Holy Trinity has also been a venue for touring choirs and orchestras.
Activities currently based in the Rectory, but that need not depend on this venue include: a woman’s group to which parishioners are invited; weekly meditation group which is open to all; and occasional coffee mornings for various groups, including parish volunteers, first day and graduating pupils of Holy Trinity school, etc.
Christchurch Parish, Castlebar
Christchurch is one of the oldest buildings in Castlebar – its first stones were laid in 1739. From 1800 to 1828, it underwent renovations. Inside, visitors can explore the history of the town from 1590 to 1914 through numerous commemorative plaques. It stands in a central location in the town adjacent to The Mall.
Services are held every Sunday at 10 am, with Holy Communion on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month. Weekly congregations number 15–25, with greater attendance on major Church occasions such as Christmas and Easter. The Harvest Festival is an important service within the life of the church, with various speakers invited to contribute. A further highlight of the parish’s year is the annual Ecumenical Carol Service, with the deep interchurch friendships reflected by the participation of the town band and the choir of Holy Rosary RC Church.
Christchurch has been increasingly used by groups, including the Mayo International Choral festival, to stage performances. Other music and choral performances have also been hosted, some in conjunction with the Linenhall Arts Centre. Recently, a series of contemporary music concerts and recitals have been held in the church. The judicious use of Christchurch by others not alone provides some modest income but, more importantly, helps to build strong community bonds.
Turlough Church, constructed in 1821 and built on land donated by George Fitzgerald of nearby Turlough House, sits in a beautiful rural setting off the N5 and a short distance from Turlough village. The church is of simple cruciform shape and has undergone a number of restorations over the years, including the restoration, in 2003, of the Alex Chestnutt organ. Church-related projects are actively supported by the whole community.
Weekly services are held on Saturday evenings at 8 pm, with Holy Communion on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays. There are weekly average attendances of 18, with capacity congregations for Harvest and Carol Services, which enjoy the support of the wider RC community. A particular highlight of the church’s activities is the monthly (during term time) children’s service, where the children play a central role in the planning and leading of the service. These services are attended by both immediate and extended family members and provide an opportunity for parishioners to meet up. Children of the parish also fully participate in both local and diocesan activities. The encouragement for and the active involvement of young people in parish life has, over the years, resulted in a growing confidence among parishioners.
Holy Trinity National School, Westport is one of five primary schools in the Diocese under the patronage of the Church of Ireland. The school, which is an Integral part of the parish, participates in the annual diocesan school service. Staff include three teachers and two special needs assistants, with a pupil enrolment of 63. There has been a heavy workload on the school staff and school board over many years, now near fruition, to have a new 4-classroom school built on a new site. The Board of Management includes the Rector with, at present, a lay chair.
The Diocesan Youth Officer, who resides in Westport, in liaison with the Youth Ministry Coordinator, is involved in the planning and running of various events within the Diocese. Non-Church of Ireland children are also encouraged to participate. The Youth Officer is a member of the Church of Ireland Youth Department.
The Rector has normally been appointed by the Bishop to be Church of Ireland Chaplain of Mayo University Hospital, Castlebar. For this, the Chaplain receives a salary from the HSE. The Chaplaincy also includes the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar.
The Rectory is situated in Westport adjacent to Holy Trinity School and just across the road from Holy Trinity Church. It is a two-storey, modern, detached house with four bedrooms (one en-suite), two reception rooms, study, kitchen/dining, utility and attached garage with access from the house. There is ample storage. The house is in a good state of repair.
The Rectory, Westport
Renumeration is MAS (Minimum Approved Stipend) plus 4% along with locomotory allowances and office expenses .
Vision for the Parishes
We are proud of our group of parishes in all their rich diversity. The profile outlined above gives a very clear indication of how we are rooted in the wider community from which we derive so much encouragement and support. At the same time, we believe that we, in the Church of Ireland, have a unique contribution to make. Of course, we struggle, as other congregations do, with ever-ageing populations; however, we are also aware of the commitment and activities of the members of our parishes and the example they show in maintaining and leading the way in meeting the challenges of the times. Interestingly, attendances at church services have remained steady over the past number of decades. We are encouraged by the support and involvement of young people and their families in both parish and diocesan life.
We need a Rector who will:
facilitate traditional and modern forms of liturgy and who will develop innovative liturgical forms
provide pastoral care to all our parishioners
support and lead the activities of volunteers in our parish communities
build on the close ecumenical and inter-faith relationships that exist in our parishes
support the development of Holy Trinity National School and the work of the Sacred Path Ministry
promote and explore the wider cultural aspects of the Church
have a clear vision how the Church of Ireland and the Reformed tradition can contribute to the dissemination of God’s word in the community
extend their ministry to the many visitors who come to the area during the summer months.
have the necessary interpersonal and communication skills to achieve the above aims.
Of course, a sense of humour is always an asset!
All enquiries to Mrs Heather Pope ( Diocesan Administrator ): email: email@example.com OR phone 00353 86 8336666