Fr Barrett ParkFATHER JOHN BARRETT
A young, fair-haired handsome priest arrived in Loughgiel to assist the then curate, Father Crilly, to run the parish following the death on the sixteenth of May 1949, of the parish priest, Father Michael Hayes. The young priest’s name was Father John Barrett. He remained for about six weeks, until the appointment of Father George Cleneghan as Parish Priest. The weather was good, that spring, and there was no cross old Parish Priest (did ever the likes exist?) to give orders to two young men who had a very happy time indeed. It was an idyllic experience for the young man from the Grosvenor Road in inner West Belfast, one that he never forgot.
John Barrett was the fourth child and third son of William and Annie Barrett. The eldest of the family, Kathleen, was Mrs.Boylan who lived in Glenshesk. Two older brothers, William and Joseph, died before him. A younger brother is a Salesian Father and the youngest member of the family Rita, lives in Belfast. It is part of the family tradition that an uncle from Kerry represented Ireland at the Olympic Games around the turn of the Century.
John Barrett joined the Salesian Order with a view of becoming a missionary priest and actually spent some time, possibility two years, in India doing missionary work. It was not to be for him and he returned to Ireland. He entered Maynooth to study for the priesthood and was ordained for the Diocese of Down & Connor in June 1946.
Father Barrett was then appointed Chaplain to Fortwilliam Convent and Assistant Priest Church of St.Therese, Somerton Road. It would appear that his brief sojourn in Loughgiel came before his next appointment, which was as Curate in Portrush. He was then appointed as Curate in Ballymena – a longer than usual stay, where he became well-known for his ability as a fundraiser and builder, being largely responsible for the new church at Harryville, not to mention various other smaller projects. He is also remembered for his attention to the sick in the hospitals at that time. After Ballymena came St. Johns in Belfast where he served for about six months before being sent again to Loughgiel Parish in early 1969. He served as a Curate in Magherahoney until he was appointed parish Priest of Loughgiel in October 1979.
During his period as Parish Priest of Loughgiel, Father Barrett was plagued with ill health. This did not deter him from continuing to work in his usual fully committed way. He continued in Loughgiel to raise funds as only he could do and was responsible in his time in Loughgiel for the new St Patrick’s Primary School. Refurbishment of the parish houses, complete re-fencing of the parish farms, external improvements and repairs to St Patrick’s Church, the virtual rescue of the Parochial house and outhouses and the provision of the new Oratory of Our Lady of the Assumption. It was he who leased the old school buildings at Lough Road to Shamrocks Hurling Club, so that the building could continue to be used by the youth of Loughgiel. The parish was in good spiritual and temporal condition when Father Barrett died suddenly on 16th June 1985.