Mervue, part of the large and ancient rural Castlegar Parish, became an urban parish in 1971 when Castlegar was divided into three divisions due to population growth in the eastern suburbs of Galway City. With Castlegar retaining its parish status, Mervue and Renmore become parishes as ordained in a letter from Bishop Michael Browne read at all Masses on the 11 July, 1971 in the Castlegar, Mionloch, Mervue and Renmore (Garrison ) churches. The erection of Mervue as a parish in its own right was inevitable after the development of the Mervue housing estate in 1954/5 and the subsequent huge increase in the local population north of the main Galway/Dublin road. The newly established Mervue Parish included the area bounded by Dublin, Monivea, Ballynew and Ardaun Roads, stretching at that time as far as the parish of Oranmore.
Mervue Parish History
However, even greater population growth saw Mervue Parish being subdivided, when the Ballynane, CastlePark and Hillside Park areas were combined to form the new parish of Ballybane in 1995. While Castlegar Parish initially incorporated Mervue and all these other localities, the Christian presence here goes back to much earlier times, to the end of the first millennium, in fact, when the Early Christian monastic site at nearby Roscam was recorded in the annals, its round tower dating perhaps a little later to the start of the second millennium. There was still a church there in medieval times, and evidence of another dating to the 12/13th centuryies has been discovered in excavations at Teampaill in Mervue. Known locally as St. James’s Church, this was one of five sites in the city associated with ancient pilgrimages to Compostella in Spain and may initially have been a dependency of the Church of St. Nicholas wardenship
The church ruins also container later 16/17th and 19th century re-working as well as tombs of the Lynch and Joyce families, landed gentry in the 19th century. Althjough neglected in recent times, Teampaill was eventually conserved in 1995 and when the church and adjoining cemetery were blessed by Bishop James McLoughlin on the 15 August of that year, it was a proud signal of Mervue’s long and lasting link with the word of God.
This vibrant connection was re-enforced with the building of the present Mervue Parish Church, which commenced in 1966 on property purchased from Galway Corporation, which also included a school site at a total cost of 7000 pounds. The church was the first completed in the city after Vatican 11 and on the 18 August, 1968, it was dedicated by the Bishop of Galway, Dr Micheal Browne, to the Holy Family. Fr. Jack O’Conner and Fr. Martin Coen were assigned to the new church. Propr to the opening of the church, Sunday Mass was held in the nearby Potez factory.
The plan of the new church was innovative with a major space constructed under the building set aside for community affairs. Consequently, the church has a rising railed walkway on either side leading to the raised entrance. Inside, the altar is located in the middle of the circular church, so that a congregation of 1,100 can be seated around it. The walls are of reinforced concrete, as is the roof, which has an outer copper surface. The architect was Patrick Sheahan and Partners, Limerick, the buider was John Sisk, and the total cost of the building was 190,000 pounds according to Tom May in Churches of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora.
Major feature inside the church, after some alterations, include a mothers’ and childrens chapel and a Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Of special interest are the altar, lamp stand and ambo, which are made from Peruvian onyx. Meanwhile the shrines of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary contain rather fine Florentine mosaics in the Byzantine style. Overhead, a large crucifixion scene painted on the cross by Italian artist, Giorgio Favella, a replica of St. Clare’s Cross in Assis, hangs directly over the altar, concentrating minds on the purpose of the Mass itself. Changing sunlight patterns also display the stained glass windows, by Phillis Burke of Dublin to best effect. They contain scenes from the Annunciation, Crucifixion and Ascension.
Outside the church, a fine grotto was erected by Fr. Joe Delaney with much financial help from the parishioners in 1980, while a small stone version was installed in 2000 next to it incorporating the treasured names of children who died prematurely. Of interest also is the shade provided by nearby trees, which, uniquely, were transplanted fromt heir more formal setting in Eyre Square, during one