St. Catherine’s Church was originally built in 1185. It is located on what was once termed the “Slí Mhór” (Irish: Great Way) – a key route that ran westwards across Ireland from Dublin. The church was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century by John Smyth (or Smith).
The church closed in 1966 due to a decrease in the local population. The church was de-consecrated the following year, and for a period was used by Dublin Corporation for exhibitions and concerts. After a period of decline, and later of refurbishment, St. Catherine’s was re-consecrated and became the place of worship for the Anglican “CORE” church (City Outreach for Renewal and Evangelism) since then.
In 2011, CORE reverted back to it’s original name of ‘St. Catherine’s Church’. It remains evangelical and charismatic in ethos and attracts a growing congregation of several hundred from over 25 nations.
HISTORY OF THE ST. CATHERINE’S (FORMERLY CORE) CONGREGATION
Revd. Willi Stewart and his wife Ruth started CORE as a church community in 1998 and it was originally situated in St. Werburgh’s church, located just outside the walls of Dublin Castle.
The church was established in response to a perceived need for an Anglican church plant in the heart of Dublin city that would focus on the areas of outreach, renewal and evangelism. Hence the name CORE which stands for City Outreach through Renewal and Evangelism. In addition to these hallmarks the words found in Isaiah 61 were rooted at the heart of the vision of CORE, a call to “preach good news to the poor, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release from darkness for the prisoners [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
From 1998 to 2000 the congregation grew substantially and so an alternative venue was sought. The setting chosen was St. Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street and the congregation has remained here since.
In 2004 Revd, Willi Stewart and his wife Ruth moved on from Dublin and in 2005 Revd. Jon Kissell was appointed as Minister and joined CORE with his wife Kathryn. The church continued to develop its local outreach into the area immediately surrounding St. Catherine’s. Jon and his family returned to their native England in January 2011.
In September 2011 Revd Craig Cooney took up leadership of the Church, joined by his wife Becky. By God’s grace the church is growing very quickly and is every week attracting new members from all backgrounds and walks of life.
HISTORY OF ST. CATHERINE’S BUILDING
A church has existed in this place, in one form or another, since 1177. The building that stands now was originally built between 1760 and 1769 to the designs of a great architect of the time, John Smyth. The interior is typical of the period; with an oak paneled gallery carried by encased cast-iron columns and boxed pews on the ground floor. The shallow vaulted ceiling has some fine plasterwork but more elaborate decoration was provided around the chancel.
Architects Curdy and Mitchell restored the church in 1877 and during the following decade an interior reordering was undertaken during which the old box pews were replaced with open ones.
The adjoining churchyard to St. Catherine’s was closed for burials in 1894 and the church itself closed in September 1966 due to a decrease in the local population, which was experienced by many inner city parishes in the 1950s. The church was deconsecrated the following year.
St. Catherine’s was then transferred to the Dublin Corporation on the condition that the church was used for cultural and community purposes. Exhibitions and concerts with well-known artists such as Christy Moore and The Chieftains were held. However, after time, interest in using the building declined and deterioration set in.
In 1990 the Dublin Corporation offered the church for sale as part of an inner city development plan. The building was in poor order, its interior ravaged by vandals and its exterior showing signs of water damage and staining.
It took another seven years before work began on returning St. Catherine’s to its former glory. The group responsible for this job was City Outreach for Renewal and Evangelism (CORE).
At that time CORE was meeting in St. Werburgh’s Church, where they were operating as a tenant congregation. In 1993, CORE made a commitment to take on the refurbishment of St. Catherine’s, a massive undertaking for a congregation, which, at the time, numbered no more than 80 people.
The total cost of restoration was about £1.75 million and CORE completed the work without having to support any debt. While some of the funds came through the local authority and private donations, the congregation provided about £600,000 of the money needed.
The interior was largely restored between February and November 1998.
In place of one of the staircases rising to the gallery off the octagonal entrance hall a kitchen and office space were installed. At the centre of the nave a new baptismal font for total immersion was built. The chancel area was converted into a stage and seating is in the form of stackable chairs. A foyer was created beneath the gallery at the back of the church by installing a glass partition. The site of the former single storey vestry was reconstructed as a three-floor office building. The exterior was cleaned and its clock returned to working order. In early November 1998 St. Catherine’s was reconsecrated and has been the place of worship for CORE since then.