This afternoon, members and friends of the Catholic Heritage Association of Ireland gathered for an historic High Mass in the Gregorian Rite to mark the 50th Anniversary of the dedication of Galway Cathedral. The Mass was offered for the benefactors of the Catholic Heritage Association of Ireland.
Given the date, months after the Instruction 'Inter Ocumenici' (26th September, 1964), and the Decree of the Congregation of Rites (27th January, 1965) issuing the 'interim' Missal, it is likely that today's Mass was the very first time that Mass was celebrated using the Missal of 1962 in Galway Cathedral.
Priests from several Dioceses and servers from several branches of the Catholic Heritage Association around Ireland were very ably accompanied by the Lassus Scholars of the Dublin Choral Foundation for the Mass of the Ember Saturday in September.
On the previous day, a very successful training day for Priests on the celebration of Mass in the Gregorian Rite was organised by the Catholic Heritage Association, again in Galway Cathedral, with the support of the Archdiocese of Tuam and the Diocese of Galway, and a further series of training days are planned for the Western Dioceses in the coming months.
Galway Cathedral is the eighth Cathedral in which the Catholic Heritage Association has organised a pilgrimage with Mass in the Gregorian Rite in the past year. Two further pilgrimages to Cathedrals, including Traditional Latin Masses are scheduled for October. The Catholic Heritage Association of Ireland now has branches based in half of Ireland's 26 Dioceses.
The Diocese of Galway is the youngest Diocese in Ireland. While most of our native Dioceses date from the Synods of Ráth Breasail (1111) or Kells (1152), the Diocese of Galway didn't come into being until much later. In 1485, Pope Innocent VIII created the Wardenship of Galway, a quasi-diocesan structure removed from the Ordinary jurisdiction of the Archbishops of Tuam. Only in 1831 did it become a Diocese, later to be joined with Kilfenora and perpetual Apostolic Administration of Kilmacduagh (1883).
The Diocese is young in another sense. The population of the Diocese has doubled since 1950, 91% of them being Catholic. Thanks to the presence of the National University of Ireland, Galway, and Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, 17% of the population are students and 30% are aged between 15 and 24 years.
The youngest Diocese in the Country also has the youngest Cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas was built upon the site of Galway gaol, which was, as Dr. Browne, the then Bishop of Galway wrote: "...Now that the site has become available, I submit to you there could be no more noble or more fitting use than to erect on it a Cathedral in thanksgiving to God, Who sustained our people in their days of trial. A Cathedral replacing a jail is the most perfect symbol of the triumph of a people who were proscribed for being Irish and Catholic. A noble Cathedral on this site would be also a fine addition to the beauty and dignity of this City of Galway, and an object of pride to all in the country..."
The Cathedral is built upon Nun's Island in the River Corrib, which was granted by the City Council of Galway on 10th July, 1649, to the Poor Clare Nuns, whose present Convent on the site has been in continuous occupation since 1825.
Construction of the Cathedral began in 1958 in an eclectic style that was a fusion of baroque, gothic and American missionary styles. It was the last Catholic Cathedral to be built in Ireland - although a few Dioceses still retain their Pro-Cathedrals in expectation - and the last Cathedral in Europe to be built of stone. The Cathedral was dedicated on 15th August, 1965. Richard, Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, was the Papal Legate.
The Diocese also has a regular Gregorian Rite Mass offered every Sunday at 2.30 p.m. in the Dominican Church, the Claddagh, by Canons of the Institute of Christ the King.