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Diocese of Achonry

In Ireland, suffragan to the Archdiocese of Tuam

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Achonry (Gaelic, Achadh-Chonnaire, Connary’s Field), the Diocese of, in Ireland, suffragan to the Archdiocese of Tuam. The village of Achonry occupies a very picturesque situation in the south of the County Sligo. Here St. Finian, who died in 552, established a church and monastery on some land given him by the prince of the Clann Chonnaire. Over this he placed Nathi O’Hara, who had been his pupil in the famous school of Clonard and is always spoken of in the annals as Cruimthir-Nathi, i.e. the Priest Nathi. In a short time the monastery and its head acquired a remarkable reputation, and a diocese was formed (c. 560) of which Nathi is reputed to have been the first bishop, though he may have been only the abbot-superior, according to the Irish system of ecclesiastical organization from the sixth to the twelfth century, which permitted in monastic government such peculiar subordination. He is the patron of the diocese, and his feast is celebrated on August 9. His successors made use of his monastery-church as their cathedral, and traces of it may still be seen. The diocese was formerly sometimes called Leyney from one of its largest and most important baronies, or perhaps because it was coextensive with what is still known as the barony of Leyney, Additions were made to it at different periods until its boundaries were finally fixed in the twelfth century. It now includes some of Roscommon, a considerable part of Mayo, and the greater part of Sligo. At the important Synod of Kells, held in March, 1152, presided over by Cardinal Paparo, and attended by the Bishop of Lismore, then Apostolic Delegate, by twenty other bishops, and by many inferior clergy, the Diocese of Achonry was represented by its bishop, Melruan O’Ruadhan. Its diocesan limits were then fixed, and it was made suffragan to Tuam. From that date the catalogue of its bishops is less fragmentary. Of the three Irish bishops who were members of the Council of Trent, one was Eugene O’Hart, Bishop of Achonry. He is described in the records of the Council as a “professor of Theology and a learned and distinguished ecclesiastic”, and had been a Dominican of Sligo Abbey. He took a prominent part in its deliberations, and left on all its members a deep impression of his zeal and learning. From the death of Dr. O’Hart in 1603, except for a brief interval of four years (1641-45), there was no bishop until 1707, and the diocese was governed by vicars-apostolic. Achonry is one of the most Catholic dioceses in the world. The total population, according to the latest census (1901) is 82,795, of which 2,242 are non-Catholics, so that 97.3 per cent of the whole are Catholics. Achonry has twenty-two parishes, twenty of which have parish priests with full canonical rights; the remaining two are mensal parishes of the bishop. There are 51 priests in the diocese, and though at one period of its history Achonry was studded with religious houses, it has at the present time no regular clergy. There are 7 congregations of religious sisters: 3 of the Irish Sisters of Charity, 2 of the Sisters of Mercy, 1 of the Sisters of St. Louis, and 1 of the Marist Sisters. The Christian Brothers have a house in Ballaghaderreen and the Marist Brothers one in Swineford. Full provision is made for the education of the young. In addition to the episcopal seminary with five professors there are day schools under the nuns and brothers and 201 schools under lay teachers. There is besides a boarding-school for young ladies conducted by the Sisters of St. Louis. There are also under the charge of the nuns 2 industrial and 7 technical schools. Since the accession of Dr. M. Nicholas in 1818, the bishop resides in Ballaghaderreen. The cathedral, a very fine Gothic building, erected at great expense by Dr. Durcan, has been completed by the present bishop, Dr. Lyster, by the addition of a magnificent tower and spire. Within the last fifty years many new churches, some very beautiful, have been built, old ones renovated, houses supplied for the clergy, convents established and schools provided.


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