As you approach 7179 Avery Road in Dublin, Ohio, you might think you’ve been transported to County Kildare, Ireland. Green grass cascades to a marshy roadside ditch, where puffy brown cattails nestled among long, slender leaves grow. Beside it stands a magnificent stone landmark — St. Brigid of Kildare Church.
The church stands on a 10-acre site that was previously home to a facility for boarding and riding horses. How it became the centerpiece of a thriving spiritual community is as uplifting as the Roman Catholic faith which it celebrates.
St. Brigid of Kildare Parish was officially established on July 18, 1987. On Christmas Eve of that year, 600 people celebrated the parish’s first Mass in an unheated horse stable with bales of hay for seats, a dirt floor, and a few horses still in their stalls, marked by the windows along the sides of the building. This worship space was renovated and was originally called Our Lady of the Gael Chapel. It is now known as Msgr. Paul Enke Hall, in honor of the parish’s founding pastor.
To accommodate its growing number of parishioners, the parish built a spectacular new church and dedicated it on August 15, 1991, the Feast of the Assumption. The stone-and-timber beam church was inspired by the 13th-century Church of Ireland Cathedral in Kildare. The cross on the bell tower is a design from an early Irish grave marker.
Venerated as one of the patron saints of Ireland, St. Brigid was born in 453 A.D. in County Louth in Northern Ireland and arrived in Kildare in 480 A.D. There, she founded a monastery that became a center of learning, an art school that produced famous illuminated manuscripts, as well as a cathedral which was built near a great oak tree. Kildare’s rural landscape contributes to why St. Brigid is often pictured in a pastoral setting with animals. A sculptural relief of one of those depictions of the saint is on one of the church’s exterior walls.
Step inside the narthex of the church, and you realize you’re in a magnificent space. An invocation to St. Brigid decorates the arch above the doors leading to the church. A bronze figure of Michael the Archangel from 17th-century Naples hovers next to the main doors.
Hand-carved church doors dating from the Spanish Colonial period flank the entrance to the church, while holy water fonts made of 16th and 17th-century Sicilian marble stand inside.
This is the sight you see when you enter the doors.
A mural depicting Christ the Good Shepherd is the focal point of the church.
Below it stands the altar, which contains stone from the 13th-century central tower of the St. Brigid of Kildare Cathedral in Kildare. Another stone in the altar was taken from the limestone foundation of the original barn that stood on the Avery Road site.
Arches decorated with painted vines and oak leaves represent the Kildare countryside. In Gaelic, “Kildare” means “the place of the oaks.”
The stained glass windows of St. Brigid Chapel, located in the southeast transept, also depict the Kildare countryside, complete with the round tower of St. Brigid of Kildare Cathedral in Kildare. Before the windows stands a hand-carved statue of St. Brigid that dates from 17th-century Italy.
The Mary Chapel, northwest of the altar, features a hand-carved statue and stained-glass windows that are symbolic of the Virgin Mary.
The early 19th-century Ambry, used to hold blessed oils for sacraments, is decorated with a carved Irish cross like the one that tops the church’s bell tower. It is hung above one of several rustic tables found throughout the church.
Celtic knotwork can be seen in a round stained glass window in the narthex, windows in rooms to receive the Sacrament of Penance, on the church’s exterior stone walls, and on the Celtic crosses that are found around the church’s landscaped grounds.
The parish’s emblem is the St. Brigid cross. Made from the rushes that grow in Kildare, this distinctive cross consists of a woven square in the center, from which four radials, tied at the ends, extend. Tradition holds that St. Brigid’s crosses are made on February 1, St. Brigid’s Feast Day. Because they are believed to protect a home from fire and evil, St. Brigid crosses are hung in many Irish kitchens. This St. Brigid cross is fashioned from oak siding from the barn that originally stood on the site of the church.
St. Brigid crosses also appear on charming ceramic signage throughout the church.
An Irish Waterford crystal chandelier and a Waterford tabernacle lamp hang in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. Waterford holy water fonts hang beside the doors to the chapel. The chapel’s Bread and Fishes stained glass window is complemented by a round stained glass depiction of Holy Angels, made in Cincinnati during the 19th century. This space off the far east side of the narthex is also known as the Chapel of Mary of the Gael, recognizing the honorary title that the Irish bestowed on St. Brigid.
Other equally distinctive buildings stand on the parish grounds. The Parish Education Center, home to a parochial elementary school and religious education classes, was dedicated in 1996. In 2004, Brigid’s Green, eight acres of donated property across from the church, added athletic fields and parking. In 2007, the parish’s new Pastoral Center, Msgr. Joseph M. Hendricks Hall, was completed. It was designed for use as meeting halls, a nursery, space for meetings, social gathering space after Masses and administrative offices for the parish.
A large stone carving over the Parish Hall doors portrays an image of St. Brigid along with icons symbolic of her life and patronage. Other stone carvings on the exterior include a St. Brigid’s Cross and Gaelic crosses.
The Pastoral Center’s buildings are reminiscent of rural monastic farm buildings surrounding a medieval-style tithe barn.
These charming stone cottage-like structures feature chimneys, dovecotes and gables, with slate roofs, stucco, timber framing, and brick-trimmed windows.
A pillow I spotted at the church reminded me of the blessing prayer traditionally said on St. Brigid’s Day and whenever a St. Brigid cross is hung:
“May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell;
Bless every fireside, every wall and floor;
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof;
And every tongue and mind for evermore;
Bless every hand that toils to bring joy
And every foot that walks its portals through.
This is my wish today, my constant prayer
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.”