There were difficulties about the opening of the church. Bishop Walsh, who gave permission had died and the new bishop Kelly felt peaved that the friars did not consult him about the new church. When the time came for the official opening towards the end of 1824, the bishop refused to open it and had the doors nailed and barred. The people still attended in the barn just a few yards from the new church. The friars got nowhere with the bishop despite efforts. The provincial Fr. O'Connor wrote to Rome and they answered him with a letter calling on the bishop, for the sake of peace and religion to open and bless the new church. The bishop was visiting Dungarvan parish, and happened to meet the provincial in the sacristy. You can imagine that meeting. The provincial gave him the letter but got no good out of him and said he'd reply himself. The provincial said it was up to himself to reply, and hoped this would be the end of the dispute which was going on for five years. 'Maybe the dispute might go on for another five years' was the bishop's parting shot! So another appeal to Rome. The reply was favourable in a letter on October 17th from Cardinal Cappallari of the Propaganda Fide to Bishop Kelly. They decided that the Bishop was to be written to, to the effect that the church was to be opened. And that the Augustinian Superiors should by letter, and also verbally through Fr. John Wall, Prior, apologise to the Bishop for not having asked his consent to the building of the church. They should beg him to forget the controversy and resolve the religious into favour. Unfortunately Bishop Kelly died October 8th and didn't receive the letter. What happened was, one day while leading a funeral, rain came suddenly and heavily. He was lightly clad, and on his return he neglected to change his clothes. The cold he got from it aggravated the palsy in his neck and he died after a few hours illness. How would he have reacted we won't know.
The P.P. of Dungarvan at the time was Fr. Foran and he later became bishop. At the end of 1829 he cheerfully gave the required permission and the new church was officially opened for worship. This church had a thatched roof which caved in in 1853, and Fr Crane raised the walls seven feet all round and put a slate roof on the church. The tower however had not yet been built. This was built while Fr. Toomey was prior in 1858 and we are told that it was fitted with a ‘sweet-toned bell' which later cracked and was replaced by the present bell. The boys chapel was added at a later time in 1947, to cater for the boarders who attended the now established St. Augustine's College. We can take the place for granted. Over the years people have shown allegiance to this church. Here they were able to pray, feel welcome, comfortable, pour out their troubles at quiet times, light candles and gather to celebrate the Sunday Mass. We give thanks for all that, and we pray that those of us who come here now will still find it a faithful friend, with open doors to welcome and nourish us in many ways.
Adapted from 'Journey of an Abbey 1292-1972': History of the Augustinians in Dungarvan, by Thomas C. Butler, O.S.A. Published by the Good Counsel Press, Ballyboden, Dublin. Printed by the Dungarvan Observer.