Public Statement with Regard to the Claims and Works of Mrs. Christina Gallagher and the ‘House of Prayer’ at Achill, Co. Mayo
Most Rev. Dr. Michael Neary
Archbishop of Tuam
In June of 1996 I constituted a Special Committee of Enquiry for the purpose of carrying out an investigation into the claims and work of Mrs. Christina Gallagher, resident at the ‘House of Prayer, Achill Sound, Achill, Co. Mayo in this archdiocese. The Committee, composed of two priests and a religious sister, has recently submitted its report. In the light of this report, and after due reflection and consultation, I wish to make the observations and announce the provisions listed below.
1. I have had submitted to me no evidence which would give cause for questioning the integrity, good will, sincerity of spiritual devotion or orthodoxy of faith either of Mrs. Christina Gallagher or of her collaborators in the work termed ‘The House of Prayer’ at Achill.
2. Further to the above, it appears that there is a great deal in the same work which is wholesome and good and which has been a force for good in the faith, prayer and lives of many people who have, in whatever manner, been associated or otherwise in contact with it.
3. While recognising the difficulty involved in treating such matters, I find myself obliged to state that no evidence has been presented which might prove beyond reasonable doubt the occurrence of supernatural phenomena of whatever kind in this situation other than that of faith. Mrs. Gallagher and her associates retain, of course, the right to believe and state their belief that such have indeed occurred and continue to occur. The question, as far as competent ecclesiastical authority is concerned, remains open and unproven.
My chief concern at this point is that the work termed ‘The House of Prayer’ be integrated into the life of Achill parish, of this Archdiocese and of the Church in general in a more stable and ordered manner than has heretofore been the case. I am also concerned that it should be helped to adhere more closely to the original understanding, which obtained with both my predecessor, Archbishop Cassidy, and Mrs. Gallagher, of what it would in fact be and strive to achieve. To these ends I am to make certain provisions, summarised below, in its regard.
1. By Agreement with Mrs. Christina Gallagher and her associates, the work termed ‘The House of Prayer’, located in premises of the same name at Achill Sound, Achill, Co. Mayo, is to take the form of a Private Association of the Christian Faithful. Such associations consist of persons who freely choose to collaborate in a particular kind of apostolate or in pursuit generally of some end related to the Church’s mission in the world. They exist and operate in conformity with canon law which expressly envisions and provides for them.
2. This new Private Association will be erected in a lawful manner and will, in continuing conformity with canon law, draw up governing statutes and submit them to me as diocesan bishop for approval.
3. The same statutes will include, as in canonically required, a clear and unambiguous statement of the ends which the Association intends to pursue and the means to be employed towards these ends. Chief among the statutory ends, in the case of the ‘House of Prayer’ at Achill, will be the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the recitation of the Rosary and the provision and proper maintenance of a place of spiritual retreat for priests. These ends are those originally agreed upon by my predecessor, Archbishop Cassidy, and Mrs. Gallagher and I observe that the clarity of this agreement may have become somewhat obscured during the intervening years.
4. As is required by canon law, the new Association will be subject to my authority as diocesan bishop in all matters concerning the administration and disposition of funds either donated or left in bequests to it for pious causes. Furthermore, although such associations are normally free to administer their other goods and property as they see fit, subject to their statutes, it remains my duty to ensure that all such goods and property owned by such an association in my diocese are used for the statutory ends of the Association. In order to ensure that everyone involved is allowed to discharge their proper duties in these matters the Association will be required to consult regularly with diocesan authorities and to submit accounts.
5. The chapel which is located on the premises occupied by the ‘House of Prayer’ at Achill Sound is to be formally designated and established as a Private Chapel in the sense of this term as it is understood in canon law. As such, it may only be used for the celebration of Mass and other sacred celebrations subject to my permission and supervision in my capacity as diocesan bishop. The Parish Priest of Achill will, ex officio, be Chaplain and the curate in Achill Sound will, by virtue of his appointment, be Assistant Chaplain. These two priests along will have faculties to preach and hear confessions in this chapel. Furthermore, no priest, other than these two, may celebrate the Mass in the Chapel without permission from me.
6. Should the Association as such require a spiritual advisor, as distinct from the chaplain and assistant chaplain whose duties do not necessarily include such a service, its members are perfectly entitled by canon law to choose any priest from among those legitimately exercising ministry in the archdiocese, subject to my confirming such an appointment.
7. The Association, finally, will have as its headquarters the premises presently occupied by the ‘House of Prayer’ at Achill Sound. The work of the Association will be carried on at this location and at no other within the territory of the Archdiocese. The same will be noted and confirmed in the statutes of the Association and will be strictly adhered to.
I earnestly hope that the work of Mrs. Gallagher and her associates in the ‘House of Prayer’ at Achill will benefit from its new form and standing within this diocese. While the Church is obliged to exercise the greatest caution in approving such works it cannot ignore the possibilities presented by the dynamism which has characterised this particular one so far. I believe that it shows genuine potential for growth and for making a valuable contribution to the life of the Church. In this regard I look forward to working closely with the members of the new Association as they integrate their dedicated approach with that of the parish of Achill and of the Archdiocese of Tuam in general.
Archbishop of Tuam.
Dated: 16th December, 1997.