New Millennium Spire completed on the tower of Saint Patrick's Church, Ballyhaunis.
Shortly after his appointment as Parish Priest to Ballyhaunis in 1993, Canon Joe Cooney began to explore the possibilities of completing the tower. With the millennium approaching, he felt that as the building of the church commenced at the beginning of the century, its completion by building a spire before the century ended would be an appropriate parish millennium project.
The proposal was unanimously endorsed by both the Parish Pastoral Council and the parishioners at a well-attended public meeting held in the Parochial Hall in October 1998. In November, the Millennium Spire Project Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Mr. Luke Murray of Hazelhill, and a fundraising campaign was launched immediately.
The target to be achieved was in the region of £250,000. Fundraising of many forms was undertaken - an appeal to Ballyhaunis natives at home and abroad by letter, contact through relatives and the internet, a monster raffle, a table quiz, a bridge night, youth discos, a tea party, a sponsor-a-slate campaign, and an application to government for a share in a fund specially designated for millennium projects nationwide.
The response to the appeal and all fundraising events can only be described as phenomenal. Donations arrived from the local community and many locations world-wide. The Millennium Spire Fund expanded beyond all expectations and a grant of £100,000 from the government millennium fund in October 1999 was the absolute 'icing on the cake'.
Meanwhile work commenced on the preparation of the tower in mid-August, the steel frame of the spire was placed in position on October 5th, timber and slates duly followed and the work was completed on December 4tg. Thanks to successful fundraising events, many generous donations and the government grant, the Millennium Spire Project was completed and fully paid for by mid-December 1999 - a little over 12 months since it began.
On 31st December 1999, the parish of Ballyhaunis marked the turn of the century in a very meaningful way with the celebration of a special Mass of Praise and Thanksgiving and the blessing and unveiling of the Millennium Spire. Music for the Mass was specially composed by Noel Henry formerly of Upper Main St., and was performed for the very first time to a capacity congregation. A plaque on the west wall of the church commemorating the spire was blessed by Canon Joe Cooney and dedicated to the memory of all benefactors past and present.
The only debt associated with the Millennium Spire is one of enormous gratitude to the many people at home and abroad who supported and contributed to the project, and to all who worked so hard to bring it to a successfiil conclusion. The names of all donors and sponsors have been placed in a time capsule, which is located inside the spire, and will remain there for generations to come. Gold Sovereign
As a footnote to the above, the addition of a spire to St. Patrick's Church was an aspiration of one Michael F. Waldron of Knox St. who was secretary of the original church committee that met in 1900. On 27th May 1953 he placed a gold sovereign in safe-keeping with the National Bank, now known as the Bank of Ireland, in Ballyhaunis. His instructions were that on the satisfactory completion of a spire on the church, it was to be handed to the Parish Priest of Ballyhaunis. Over fifty years later his wishes were fulfilled when the manager of the bank, Mr. Donal Shanaghy, presented the gold sovereign to Canon Joe Cooney on 9th December 1999.
As and from the beginning of the year 2000, St. Patrick's Church is finally complete with a soaring spire and looks resplendent inside and out. It is without doubt one of the finest churches in the West of Ireland. It is a worthy memorial to the many people who contributed so generously to the building fund at the beginning of the century, to all those who helped to maintain it so beautifully for the past 90 years, and to those who contributed to its completion in the dying months of the same century. It stands as a focal point for the town and hinterland, a symbol of the faith embraced by our forefathers and handed on to generations to come, and testimony to the manner in which the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ was celebrated in Ballyhaunis.