Abbey Trust & Partnership

Abbey Trust & Partnership
The Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership was established in June 2002 following the decision of the Irish Province of the Augustinian Order to commit the Augustinian Abbey and property in Ballyhaunis, for the benefit of the people after their decision to withdraw from the town in 2001.
The Abbey Partnership has sought to maintain and develop the overall Augustinian property, ensuring that it remains a major social amenity for the people and families of Ballyhaunis and surrounding areas.
History & Background
The town of Ballyhaunis itself grew around the original Augustinian settlement of St. Mary’s Abbey which was founded in the 14th Century (circa 1348) and has played a major role in the town’s development and the welfare of its people over the centuries. 
The Augustinians maintained a presence in the town until 2001 when they made their decision to withdraw from Ballyhaunis.  As part of this process of withdrawal, the Augustinians sought proposals from all in the community on the future use of the Friary house, St. Mary’s Abbey and the surrounding lands. 
At the Ceremony marking the withdrawal of the Augustinian Order from St. Mary's Abbey, which took place on Sunday 16th June 2001 and was highlighted by the Chief Celebrant at the Mass - Fr. Desmond Foley, O.S.A., Provincial of the Augustinian Order in his address at the final ceremony, referring to the great sadness which prevailed amongst all those present. He said that the Augustinian Order had hit bad times, referring to the steady decline in their numbers, and the fall-off in vocations to the order. 
He prayed for "the healing of any hurts that have been caused by our departure both to local people and to Augustinians", and added:  "These buildings - this holy place made holy by prayer - will remain at the service of the local community. 
The land around us will be a place where, we hope, people will find peace and find God. These amenities and the graves of the friars who died here will be a perpetual memorial to the Augustinians of Ballyhaunis." 
In the homily delivered by Fr. Dick Lyng O.S.A., who resides in their Galway house, outlined the long history of the Augustinian presence in Ballyhaunis and of the many friars who have served here since the fourteenth century. 
He traced the origins of the Augustinian Order in Ireland back to their arrival with their Anglo-Norman overlords and patrons in the twelfth century.
Highlighting that they became 'more Irish than the Irish themselves', he explained that they cut away from their English origins and influences, departed from the towns and sought-out more sparsely populated places to build their abbeys. 
Their first house in the West was at Ballinrobe, and from here they spread to Ardnaree (Ballina), Burriscarra, Banada, Dunmore and Ballyhaunis.
Fr. Lyng made reference to one Fr. Hugh O'Malley, a Ballyhaunis born Augustinian who, in February 1547, negotiated with Rome and secured a certain degree of independence for the Augustinians in the province of Connacht. He continued: "Today, we pay homage to the faith and persistence, and sometimes the heroic lives of the friars who served in this house, in this town.
Among them were heroic martyrs like Walter Jordan (Nangle), who was executed here by Cromwellians in 1649; patriots like Myles Prendergast who participated to good effect in the 1798 rebellion; scholars and artists, like E. A. Foran whose paintings still decorate this place." He also recalled Fr. Thomas Cassidy, the renowned eighteenth century poet who, on many occasions had difficulties with his vocation.
Another contributor was  Fr. Aidan O'Leary O.S.A. who explained that  "We are aware that today is a day of great sadness; it is a day of great disappointment in the long, long history of St. Mary's Abbey here in Ballyhaunis, because, as we know, after more than six hundred years, today is the final day of the presence of the Augustinians in this holy, sacred and historical site. Very, very few people if anybody thought that they'd live to see or to experience what is going to happen today, and there are a lot of emotions shared by a lot of people in this area, and surrounding areas: there is sadness, disappointment, frustration, and in some there is very, very deep seated anger. Those emotions are shared not just by the people of Ballyhaunis and surrounding areas, and the people for whom the Abbey is and always has been part of the very soul of this area. Those emotions are shared too by many, many Irish Augustinians." 
He went on to outline the sad state the Augustinian order currently finds itself in, with an average of four or five priests dying each year, with no ordination in the last three years, and not even one student of the order at present. 
The Abbey Partnership
As mentioned earlier, the Augustinians sought proposals from all in the community on the future use of the grounds and a number of written submissions and proposals were received from local groups, whom the Augustinians then brought together and asked to establish a local company to hold in trust and manage their property in Ballyhaunis. 
Arising from this, two organisations were established - the Ballyhaunis Abbey Trust and the Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership. The first organisation – the Ballyhaunis Abbey Trust, is composed of representatives from the Ballyhaunis Community Council, Mayo County Council and nominees of the Augustinians themselves. 
The second organisation is the Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership, was established to manage and develop the overall property on behalf of the Trust on a day-to-day basis.
Purpose of the Abbey Partnership:
2010 was a productive year for the Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership and Abbey Trust, building on the work carried out over the last years since the withdrawal of the Augustine Order in 2005 and the formal transfer of St. Mary’s Augustinian Abbey and Grounds to the local community under the 999 year lease.
The entire property and buildings are held by the Ballyhaunis Abbey Trust Limited who have appointed the Ballyhaunis Abbey Partnership to manage the property on a day to day basis.
The Abbey Partnership aims to promote through community development methods, the overall development of the property of the Augustinian Order in Ballyhaunis on behalf of the Abbey Trust and in conjunction with local people to design and implement programmes and projects which will cater for the social, cultural, economic, educational and environmental needs of all people living in the Ballyhaunis area, particularly of those who are socially excluded
Abbey Grounds and River walk:
During 2010 the friary grounds continued to attract people of all ages and backgrounds to avail of this invaluable community amenity with the Children’s Playground and attractive woodland and river walkway being used on a daily basis. 
Great credit is due to the Rural Social Scheme staff whose dedication and hard work keeps the friary grounds in their impressive state, with our appreciation going to Sean Biesty and John Joe Lyons for all their hard work in maintaining the grounds over the last year.
Mayo County Council also continue to make a significant contribution, through the Abbey Partnership ensuring the property is insured, the playground area inspected on a regular basis and taking responsibility for the maintenance of the both St. Mary’s Abbey and the Friary House.
2010 also saw the Abbey Partnership take part for the second year running in the National Tree Planting Week along with the Children from Scoil Iosa adding to the property's natural flora.
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Ballyhaunis Tidy Towns Committee also took the initiative to construct a number of notice / display boards which have been located throughout the abbey grounds containing information on our natural plant and wildlife.
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St. Mary’s Abbey continues to be used to host a number of social and cultural events throughout the year, with the Ballyhaunis Artists group hosting their exhibitions in the Abbey building and performances from the Gracenotes Choir group and the Mayo County Council Summer Music programme.
The annual Graveyard Mass also continued in 2011 marking the feast of St. Augustine held in conjunction with the Abbey Pattern on the last Sunday of the year. 
The Abbey was also used to host a number of other events during the year with our local Schools and other groups in the Community, including a Maths Circus for young people organised as part of Mayo Science Week during November.  There are monthly film nights showing short films from the Irish Film Board.
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Friary House:
The Abbey Partnership continues to rent out the Friary House to the Ballyhaunis Family Resource Centre and to Mayo VEC Further Education Centre. Both organisations work to provide opportunities and supports to the entire community, with a focus on those most disadvantaged and socially excluded - in keeping with the ethos given to us by the Augustinians.
Abbey Pattern Sports Day:
The tradition of the Abbey Pattern continues with successful Patterns being held annually since the event was revived in 2004.   Once again full credit goes to the organisers, the Abbey Pattern Committee. All funds raised by the Pattern are donated to activities for children in the community.
Multi-Purpose Sport Facilities:
2010 marked the completion of a significant project for the abbey partnership with the completion of the new Multi Sport Games Area – otherwise known as MUGA which was constructed in the front field of the Abbey Grounds. 
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Funding had been secured from the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism in 2007 for financial aid to develop a multi-purpose all weather sports facility in the friary field, near to the Scouts Den. Planning Permission was obtained and the construction work was completed in the spring of 2010. The project cost a total €180,000 with Mayo County Council contributing €80,000 towards the project with the balance coming from Local Contributions via the Abbey Partnership.
A number of positive developments are already being prepared for the near future with a new foot bridge linking the River walk to the new Soccer Pitch to be developed alongside the Station Rise / Cherry Vale housing estates.
The Abbey have also developed a wonderful Community Garden.
The Abbey Partnership is also anxious to record and highlight the local history and heritage of St. Mary’s Abbey to and promote this within the local community, especially amongst young people and will try to develop some related projects in this field.
Abbey Partnership board is composed of Chairperson: John Coll (Mayo County Council), Vice-Chairperson: Peter Cunnane (Ballyhaunis Chambers), Treasurers: Mary Donnelly (Community Council) and Anne Cunnane (Ballyhaunis Chambers), Secretary: Stephen Grogan (Family Resource Centre), Cllr. John Cribbin, (Mayo County Council), Pádraic Flanagan (Mayo County Council), Pat Higgins (Community Council), Michael Kelly (Community Council) Fr. Michael Mernagh (OSA), Cllr. Damien Ryan (Mayo County Council). The partnership also welcomed Nell Rochford onto it board during 2011 on behalf of the Community Council.
Abbey Trust Members
Directors of the Abbey Trust Limited:   Cllr. John Cribbin, Mary Donnelly, Jarlath Fahy, Nuala Fitzgerald, Seamus Granahan, Stephen Grogan,  Peter Hynes,  Pat Higgins,  Jim Lundon,   Cllr. Damien Ryan.