Origin and evolution of Millstreet Parish during the second Millennium.
Millstreet is one of 53 parishes in the Diocese of Kerry and one of four parishes in NW Cork, included within the diocese. Since the early beginnings of the parish it has changed its name, place of worship and geographical extent at least three times:
From 1450 until the first quarter of the 20th Century, it was known
Prior to that date, it was called Kilmeedy.
It is now known as Millstreet.
The first church was located at Kilmeedy, the next at Drishane, at the
north end of the old cemetery. Since the early 1800's the church has been located at the West End of the town.
Cullen was a separate parish for over 500 years and in the past
included part of Kilcorney. It was only attached to Millstreet about 1806. Today Millstreet Parish comprises three congregations - Millstreet, Cullen and Ballydaly - with churches serving each community.
What is a Parish?
In the Code of Canon law (1983), a parish is described as "a definite community of the faithful within a diocese, established on a stable basis by the Bishop and entrusted to a Parish Priest who has responsibility for the spiritual and pastoral care of the community" (Canon 515). Prior to the Council of Trent, in the mid 16th Century, parishes were territorial entities with loosely defined boundaries.
The Council decreed that they should be established with definite boundaries. In the new code, the emphasis is on the parish as a community rather than a geographical entity, thus giving primacy to the understanding of the Parish as a community of people growing and changing and seeking stronger bonds of unity. It is not a static reality.
This emphasis corresponds to the self-understanding of the Church which found expression in the documents of the 2nd Vatican Council. In De Ecclesia, one of the Council's four major documents, the primary focus was on the Church as the community of the faithful
the people of God. In fact, the concept of "communion" or
community underlies all of the major documents.
Development of the Diocesan Structure during the 12th Century.
We will examine how the diocesan structure took shape and was largely completed by the end of the 12th Century. Apart from a few minor changes, the diocesan structure has remained intact up to the present time. The division of the diocese into various parishes also began at that stage but has evolved significantly during the intervening centuries. We can trace the origin of the Diocese of Kerry to the major organisation of the Church in Ireland, on a territorial basis, which took place at two Synods during the 12th Century.
The Synod of Rathbreasail 1111 AD.
Ireland was divided into two provinces, corresponding to the historic division of the country into the northern half (Leath Chuinn) and the southern half (Leath Mhogha). A metropolitan see was fixed for each half (Armagh and Cashel) with twelve diocese in each province.
Rath Maighe Deisceart (Ratass) was chosen as the Episcopal see of Kerry. The ruined church at Ratass can be seen within the cemetery across the road from Tralee General Hospital. Ardfert, where St Brendan had founded a monastery in the 6th Century, had been destroyed shortly beforehand by warring factions. By 1150, a new Romanesque church had been built to replace the ruins. This was an imitation of the famous chapel built by Cormac McCarthy of Desmond in 1129 on the Rock of Cashel.
The Synod of Kells 1152 AD.
Bishop O'Ronain made a plea for the See to be transferred to the fine new church at Ardfert, eight kilometres NW of Tralee, and so Ratass lost its primacy to Ardfert. The diocese was named Ardfert, a title which it retained until the middle of the 19th Century, when the See was transferred to Killarney and the diocese became known as Kerry. At Kells, the Church was organised into four provinces with 34 suffragan bishops. Apart from a few minor changes, this organisation has remained substantially unchanged up to the present time. One such instance - Cork was joined with Cloyne by Papal decree in 1429 but separated again in 1747. With the union of some other dioceses the number now stands at 26. The present diocese of Kerry includes Millstreet and three other parishes located in NW Cork as well as some parishes in the Beara peninsula.