Star of the Sea Centre, under the patronage and protection of Our Lady, welcomes people into the safe refuge and harbour of Jesus, offering an opportunity for people to come away from the busyness of life and open their hearts to an encounter with the Lord, receive healing and blessing and hopefully leave renewed and enriched as they continue on their journey through life.
Our History: The Full Story
84 years ago, 19th August, 1929, the Sisters of Mercy from Sligo arrived here to take up residence in their new Convent home. Like ourselves, they looked around and were taken by the beauty of their surroundings … the sea, the beach, the harbour, the mountains … and further round, the cliffs and headland. These were the constants that would enclose their lives in the ensuing years and continue to encircle us today.
But there were subtle differences. Mullaghmore was then a much quieter, simpler place, a small unit in the young Irish Free State. A local historian writes:
‘In 1929 most of the residents were fishermen or plot holders or sometimes both. They were honest, hardworking, simple people devoted to their family and indeed their faith. The village consisted of one hotel, one public house. The post-office hadn’t yet arrived.’
The reverend Mother in Sligo, Mother Agnes, saw the venue as an oasis of possible healing for her Sisters. Illnesses such as T.B. and the Spanish flu stalked the land and she saw hope in this property offered for sale by the local landlord, Colonel Ashley, the site of four three-story lodges which had been burned down during the war of Independence.
New life was to rise, phoenix-like, from the burned-out ruins, as the sisters bought the property for £1400, converting it into a convent with accommodation for 30 sisters. Later in 1935, a further plot was purchased from the Land Commission, and this supplied vegetables and potatoes for the convent.
Out of civil war, burnings and violence, new life had been born. The Sisters of Mercy, founded by Catherine McAuley in 1829, were approaching their hundredth birthday as they formed this fresh shoot in Mullaghmore. Soon the sisters were walking the narrow roads, visiting the homes, sharing the joys and sorrows of local families. Three sisters, Peter Doran, Depazzi O’Connor and Antonio Hunt were principals of the local primary school from 1929 to the late 1970’s when the primary school was amalgamated with Cliffoney.
A new burst of life came in the 1970’s as Star of the Sea opened its doors for holidays, retreats and days of renewal, providing a haven for laity, religious and clergy from all over Ireland and beyond. Married couples, teenagers, parish groups, Cursillo groups came in their hundreds and left with lighter hearts, renewed hope and deeper faith.
The growing numbers necessitated a major overhaul of the building in the late 1990’s and so was witnessed the transformation to the fine conference centre we have today. In 2010, the beautiful peace and reconciliation garden was developed.
In the 84 years during which the Sisters ministered in Star of the Sea, they have provided a house of rest for members of their mercy family, a house of worship for the wider community, a source of comfort and support to locals at all times but especially in hard times, a provider of education over five decades, and on a lighter note a useful symbol for the local sailing club.
Star of the Sea’s healing ministry was coming full circle…it was indeed a beacon of light in the darkness for the many who came seeking wholeness.
In 2013 it entered a new phase and was handed over by the Sisters of the Western Province to the Bishop of Elphin to continue its role of welcoming all who seek peace, healing, quiet and a deeper relationship with God, within the context of the Catholic Christian Faith. Sr. Kathleen Rooney R.S.M. generously offered to manage the Centre for the Diocese up until August 2020 when she was replaced by Louise and Frank McGuinness, who are the current management team at the Centre.