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St Patrick’s Day stories for 2023!

A round–up of events and services to lead up to and mark St Patrick’s Day around the Church of Ireland.


Thank you to our friends in Armagh Parish for this selection of photos from the annual lecture and the walk between the city’s two cathedrals.

Saul & Downpatrick

On a surprisingly dry 17 March, pilgrims gathered for Holy Communion at Saul Church as our annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations got underway. The Very Revd Henry Hull, Dean of Down, gave the address at the service and Bishop David was the celebrant.

Our diocesan celebrations have always been both cross–community and international, but ‘Reconciliation’ was the particular focus for 2023. The theme ran through the Prayer Pilgrimage to Down Cathedral which was led by representatives of the three major denominations and the independent churches.

Revd David Turtle, President Designate of the Methodist Church in Ireland, led prayers on the topic of memories and experiences; Dominic Breen, a retired senior teacher and leading Catholic layman, guided our prayers on politics; Priscilla Reid, Pastor Emeritus of Christian Fellowship Church, Belfast and a leader of ARC (Associated Churches Ireland), led us in prayer around reconciliation in the Church; and Revd John Dickinson, who recently retired as the minister of the biggest of Presbyterian Church in Ireland (Carnmoney), guided us in prayer for education.

In keeping with the Celtic flavour of the occasion, pilgrims arriving in the Cathedral Narthex for the Festival Service were greeted with traditional music played by the Maginn Family and Irish dancers from the McCartney School of Dance took part in the service.

Our guest speaker was the Archbishop of Rwanda, The Rt Revd Dr Lauren Mbanda. Archbishop Laurent is an experienced practitioner in the area of reconciliation. He has written and spoken widely about his experience during decades of violence in Rwanda and worked extensively in peacebuilding and trauma support in the aftermath of the genocide.

“Rwanda is a country that has risen out of the ashes of the genocide,” he said. “We still have a good way to go, but we are in a good place today.”

Getting to that place required finding a new identity and over the years doing the work of understanding, confession and forgiveness. Archbishop Laurent reminded us that our fundamental identity is as new creations in Christ who have put off the old and are now transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17).

He said: “New means new creatures, new people, new hearts, new mindset, new thinking. I have been reconciled with God and that puts me in a new environment. Reconciliation means to exchange hostility, not only with God but with your fellow men.”

Archbishop Laurent urged us to be Christ’s ambassadors. “God’s people, his Church, need to seek him, and in seeking him, you and I will bring a blessing to the people around us – to our family, to our village, to our society and to our nation.”

We are indebted to Mrs Myrtle Kerr for leading the intercessions, some of which were written by her husband, the late Revd Cecil Kerr. Against the backdrop of the ‘Troubles’, Cecil and Myrtle founded the Christian Renewal Centre at Rostrevor and left a profound legacy of renewal and reconciliation. Myrtle also led the congregation in singing, ‘Lead me Lord’ in both English and Irish.

Thank you to Down Cathedral’s organist, Mr Michael McCracken, for leading the worship and to soloist Ruth Thompson who sang What grace is mine and Make me a channel of your peace.

Following the service, Archbishop Laurent laid a wreath on Patrick’s grave and many people stayed on in the cathedral for a complimentary ‘Picnic in the Pews.


‘St Patrick, A Stranger Bearing Gifts’ wass the theme for this year’s ecumenical service on St Patrick’s Day, in St Patrick’s Cathedral. The theme is a reminder that St Patrick was not from these shores, in fact was held here as a slave who had been trafficked into Ireland after a raid on his parents’ home in neighbouring Britain. Having been able to flee, he returned to the land of his captors to foster a new beginning, bringing as a gift his own new–found faith in a loving God.

Patrick’s gift is an encouragement for us today to receive the gifts of those who have come to us in recent times: refugees seeking shelter from situations of immense hardship.

This service brings together the 14 churches from the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Dissenting traditions who are members of the Dublin Council of Churches, for a celebration in poetry, words of Scripture, song and traditional Irish music. Poet John F Deane and Rev Pr Florian von Issendorff of St Finian’s Lutheran Church, Adelaide Road, addressed the gathering.

Diocese of Clogher

The Ematris Group of parishes held a social evening in Aghabog Parish hall on March 17th which was very well supported. It was organised largely by Walter Pringle and Revd Margaret Pringle with a number of other people who helped and brought food. It comprised of hymn singing, prayers and a fun quiz.

At Glaslough, the parishioners of St. Salvator’s Church, Glaslough and St. Sillian with St. Muadain’s churches joined in the St. Patrick’s Day Community Pilgrimage Walk in Glaslough. Hot food of soup and cakes was provided and proceeds from the walk is going to the Bishop’s Appeal Turkey and Syria Earthquake Appeal.

At Ballycassidy Hall, the parishioners of Trory and Killadeas gathered for a night of Ulster–Scots cabaret with Irish stew and wheaten bread served to those present. A large crowd turned up to enjoy the evening.

Dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe

Bishop Michael Burrows reflects on St Patrick’s Day using the Gospel reading for the previous Sunday, with the theme of ‘What buckets should we leave behind?’

Cork, Cloyne and Ross

After three years of restrictions, the Civic Service and Festival Eucharist at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral as well as the Reception at the Bishop’s Palace to celebrate St Patrick’s Day took place again this year. As in previous years the Bishop of Cork, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton, and Mrs Susan Colton, invited nearly 300 representatives of civic and community life in Cork City and County to their home to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  A full report and photo gallery is available at this link.

Credit: Gerard McCarthy Photography.
Credit: Gerard McCarthy Photography.

Thank you to everyone who led and facilitated worship and other special events around the Church for this celebration of the bringing of the Gospel to Ireland.

Church of Ireland Press Office

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