In 2005, the parish council of Dunshaughlin and Culmullen decided to develop a pastoral centre to cater for the needs of a parish expected to double in size by 2010. At that time, church educational programmes, counselling and meetings were held in schools and halls throughout the parish. The pastoral centre was designed to consolidate these activities and to meet the social needs of families and friends coming together at times of celebration – baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage – and bereavement.
It was a dark time for the Catholic Church in Ireland. “There were terrible revelations about clerics,” recalls Siobhán Ní Éanaigh, “but there was also a general feeling that religious groups and charitable organisations should be doing more to promote and foster educational and cultural initiatives for parishioners of all ages as a means of fostering the faith and developing a greater sense of community.” The parish council was inspired by the example of St Brigid´s community resource centre at Killester in Dublin. The Dunshaughlin centre accommodates a parish office, reception area and shop, pastoral office, two counselling rooms, a spacious meeting room, a 150-seat conference room, a youth room, a coffee dock and a kitchen.
The site was a very big car park,” says Ní Éanaigh. At the centre of the plot was a plain, pebble-dashed, broad-roofed, 1980s parish church: the church of Saints Patrick and Seachnall. On the adjoining site, behind a mature clipped hedge, lay a handsome, brick-built Victorian parochial house with a hipped roof. “There was a pedestrian pathway leading to the church door and two vehicular entrances off Main Street that left the church in the role of quasi traffic island around which cars swept in and out,” she says. “For us, the issue was how to position a third building, compositionally and contextually, as both a binder between the existing buildings and as a new destination in its own right, while also neutralising the unpleasant ‘traffic island’ characteristic.
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