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Fr Gerard Cassidy C.Ss.R P.P / Fr Pat McLaughlin C.Ss.R C.C
St Gerard's Church in Newtownabbey in North Belfast sits on high ground overlooking magnificent views of Belfast Lough. The church itself is no less impressive than the panoramic landscapes that surround it. A large red brick building fronts the Antrim Road and can seat up to 600 Mass goers, the church is the focal point of a parish best known for its status as the first Redemptorist parish in Ireland.
The story of St Gerard's begins in 1951 when the former owner of the property (a Protestant Major) died, and the land was sold to the Redemptorist order, who bought it with the view to establishing a new church, monastery and retreat house in the area. Hopes to build a new church were soon put into action and a fundraising campaign quickly got underway. Building works took some time and for a number of years parishioners had to be temporarily accommodated in a hut. However, the parish's perseverance was to pay off and on December 9 1956 the completed church of St Gerard's opened its doors to the joy of the Redemptorists and the local Catholic community.
Today the parish is looked after by parish priest, Fr Gerard Cassidy and it is host to a wide variety of groups and organisations. A short drive from the church is the parish's primary school, Our Lady of Lourdes or otherwise known as Park Lodge.
In recent months the parish and school have come together for the celebration of confirmation. Such events, just like that of First Holy Communion, are, according to Fr Cassidy, of intrinsic value to the future of parish life in St Gerard's. ''It's always a great day and we get a good turnout. Children are, after all, the great converters and here we try to make the most of that fabulous dynamic.''