St. Mary’s Chapel – Eaglais Naomh Mhuire

Francis Street
September 2, 2020
Parish Church Of St George
September 2, 2020
Francis Street
September 2, 2020
Parish Church Of St George
September 2, 2020

St Mary’s chapel, the first Catholic church to be established in the predominant Presbyterian town of Belfast. Interestingly, the McCracken’s/Joy’s played a role in its establishment and grand opening. Henry joy and Mary Ann’s uncles, especially Robert Joy were heavily involved with the Belfast Volunteers, a local militia originally set up in the fear of French invasion. Among its first member were Henry Joy and Mary Ann’s father, Captain McCracken and their brother Francis ‘Frank’ McCracken, only sixteen at the time. The Volunteers took a real anti-sectarian approach which was in contrast to other volunteer militias in Ulster. The Belfast Volunteers subscribed £84 for the local Catholic congregation and paraded in full uniform for the grand opening of the church in May 1784. The action of the Volunteers that day highlights the influence the McCracken/Joy family had on local politics of the time, showcasing Belfast as the anti-sectarian centre of Ireland at the time.

This Catholic church was established in 1784, with the help of the lagerly Presbyterian Belfast, especially  with help from Henry Joy and Mary Ann McCracken’s family. The McCracken’s true to their belief’s believed in equality between Catholics and Protestants of Belfast. Putting action to their words, they raised funds for this small Catholic congregation and as a result this new church was built. As well, as leaders and members of the Belfast Volunteers, the McCracken’s helped organise a parade at the opening in May 1784.