The Parish enters the new Millenium, 2000

The New Year, new century and new millennium began with a Mass for Peace on New Year’s Day. 

Canon Connolly was honoured to be invited to attend the installation of Reverend Daniel Kane as Presbyterian Minister of West Church. 

The family of the late Maureen McErlain, formerly of Mount Street, donated to All Saints’ Church the brass bell which has been fixed outside the door of the Sacristry.  It will be rung to alert the congregation that the priest is coming onto the altar. 

In March Ballymena was blessed to be chosen as one of the very few places in Ireland that the International Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima would visit.  The statue came on 30 March and big crowds of people came to pray.

As a diocesan celebration for the Millennium a pilgrimage was organised to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Moneyglass.

Canon Donnelly celebrated his Golden Jubilee with Bishop Walsh coming to Ballymena to preside at a Mass.  Canon Donnelly was presented with a picture and a cheque on behalf of the parishioners.  Celebrations continued with a family meal in the Parochial house.                                                 

St Louis Primary School celebrated their seventy fifth anniversary.  A special school concert and a Mass of Thanksgiving was held in June.   

Canon Connolly had applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery to assist with renovations and restoration required to the bell tower of All Saints.  A grant of fifty per cent – £92,000 – was awarded.  The work involved the replacement of over four hundred sandstone corner stones, sourced from Yorkshire.

On the morning of July 17 two parishioners in Knockeen Road, beside the Ballykeel Estate, had petrol bombs thrown into their homes.  No one was hurt but there was a lot of smoke damage.

On July 18 when Pat Corr opened Our Lady’s Church Harryville he found a fire had been set in the middle of the church but had burned itself out as materials used were mostly non flammable.  The perpetrators had cut a rail of the palisade fencing, then cut a square out of a window grill and broke through an etched glass porch window.  They had used carpet lengths from the sanctuary, the altar cloths and some altar servers’ stools to build a fire among the seats.  This had been sprinkled with a substantial amount of petrol.  The altar cloths burned, two seats were badly scorched and the whole building was extensively smoke damaged.  Bishop Walsh came to the parish and on television expressed strong condemnation of this type of activity.

On Thursday 17 August three paint bombs were thrown at All Saints’ Church.  A person was caught and sentenced for the incident.  A few nights previously an incendiary attack on St Patrick’s College destroyed some wooden mobile classrooms.

In the early hours of August 5 a young parishioner, Julie Tennant, aged twenty one, disappeared from her home.  She was from a family of six girls.  When she didn’t return after two days her family notified the police.  Canon Connolly was involved in media appeals which produced little response.  The family were frantic with worry.  On Thursday August 24 her body was found in a shallow grave in a wooded area outside Broughshane.  Adrian William Hayes, originally from the Broughshane area was arrested and charged with her murder at a house in Warden Street.  Julie was buried on August 27.  

Fr Frank McKenna of the Braid had to retire on health grounds.  Bishop Walsh requested that one of the curates, Fr Eugene O’Neill, move into the Braid Parochial House and Canon Connolly act as Parish Administrator.

In October the BBC recorded a ‘Songs of Praise’ programme from Glenariffe Forest Park.  They interviewed the parish sacristan, Barney McKeown, who gave an impressive interview.

Pope John Paul had requested the year 2000 should be a year of special Eucharistic devotion.  The Diocesan Jubilee Committee organised a Triduum for October 16-18 on the theme of Covenant.  Bishop Walsh attended the first evening.

It was believed that a parish website (www.ballymenaparish.org) would enable young people who were away from home to keep in touch with happenings in the parish.  Mr Robert McGroggan took on the task of setting up the website.

During the night of December 3, the Parochial House at Harryville was broken into and a room at the back set on fire. 

A positive feature each Christmas has been the collection of parcels for the Diocesan Catholic Caring originally started by Bishop Daly.  The Knights of St Columbanus ask families in the parish to make up parcels for needy, named families.  These are delivered to All Saints’ car park on the Sunday before Christmas.  This year saw over three hundred parcels collected and delivered to centres in Belfast. 

Jubilee 2000 concluded on the Feast of the Epiphany with a special Liturgy.

For the first time an Enrolment Ceremony was held on Sunday January 27 for all children making their First Communion.   

February 22 saw the announcement that Fr Donal McKeown, President of St Malachy’s College, had been nominated by Pope John Paul as the new Auxiliary Bishop to replace Bishop Dallat.  There was general rejoicing in the diocese, particularly in Randalstown, the home parish of Fr McKeown.

The Episcopal Ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown was held in St Peter’s Cathedral on Sunday April 29.  Bishop McKeown was welcomed to the parish on May 22 to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The relics of St Therese of Lisieux were brought to Ireland in mid May and were received in St Peter’s Cathedral on Sunday May 27.  The Cathedral was kept open all night and large numbers queued to see them.  They were in Clonard on May 28 and Ardoyne the following Tuesday.

Sadly on May 28 two paint bombs were thrown at All Saints’ Church and two at Crebilly Church.

Numbers attending parish primary schools continued to fall.  Parishioners, especially the parents of children at the parish primary schools, were advised that DENI had approved the implementation of a Feasibility Study to assess the way forward. This was being done under the guidance of the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools. 

July brought the usual difficulties.  The annual display of flags appeared in loyalist areas.  Then some Tricolours appeared in Fisherwick Gardens.  On 11 June an appeal was made from the pulpit for those responsible to remove these in order to avoid provocation.  The following Friday twenty four men from Wrights’ Factory in Galgorm were arrested in Fisherwick Gardens as they tried to remove the flags.  Canon Connolly called a meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council who agreed to conduct a survey of all the houses in Fisherwick Gardens and Crescent.  They asked home owners if they approved or disapproved of the display of flags.  Two thirds disapproved.  This outcome was announced from the pulpit the following Sunday.  The priests went public in the local press saying they believed the entire community should be aware that the display of flags in Fisherwick was not approved of by the Catholic community.  It was the work of a minority.  A group of about one hundred loyalists had been blocking the Broughshane Road on Tuesday evenings at this time.

As a result of the publicity Sinn Fein, who were said to have been behind the display, issued a handout around the doors of Fisherwick.  The SDLP also issued a handout.  The intervention by the local clergy helped take some tension out of the loyalist response and the blockage of Broughshane Road was halted.

The flags issue caused speculation in the press about a revival of protests at Harryville.  Incidents occurred at Crebilly Church and at Harryville and an incendiary device was thrown into a Catholic owned bar near the Braid.

Spirits were lifted in the parish on Saturday June 30 with the ordination, for the Diocese of Leeds, of Father Martin Kelly from Broughshane Road.  Bishop Farquhar was the celebrant as Bishop Konstant of Leeds had recently suffered a stroke.  About thirty priests from Leeds were present at the ceremony.  

Early in July  the front doors and the front of the Church of Our Lady, Harryville suffered badly from paint bombs.  This resulted in the front door remaining closed under November when the damage was cleaned.

Builders and plumbers worked from September to the end of November installing a new oil fired heating system in the Church of Our Lady, Harryville.  This was the work postponed from 1996.

A large number of parishioners responded to the appeal to clean the church for Christmas.

The process of setting in motion the Feasibility Study for the primary schools had necessitated Canon Connolly attending many meetings during the year with representatives of the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools and the Department of Education for Northern Ireland.

Who knows what the future holds!