A People’s Church – The Diocese of Achonry from the Sixth to the Seventeenth Century is not only an ecclesiastical history of the diocese of Achonry; it is also a socio-political examination into the lives of its people from the sixth until the seventeenth century. It charts the first thousand years of Christianity in Ireland, all while tracking important figures, identifying key events and situating all within the context of the time. the study draws on sources based locally, in the National Libraries of Ireland and Britain, and significantly the Vatican Archives in Rome.
Beginning with a survey of what St Patrick would have found in Ireland in the sixth century, and the early Achonry saints, Attracta, Finninan and Fechin, then covering the establishment of the monasteries, and the establishment of the diocese as an entity along with local parish and rectory boundaries, the social and political life of Achonry is charted right through to the impact of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the campaigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The impact that this one diocese on the west coast of Europe had on the Council of Trent and the volume of correspondence between Achonry and the Vatican is a revelation in itself.
This volume completes the historical picture of the Diocese, starting in the sixth century and ending in the 1960s. The portrait is continued in A Hidden Church – The Diocese of Achonry 1686–1818 and A Dominant Church – The Diocese of Achonry 1818–1960.
Fr Liam Swords began work on this project in 1993 and saw the first two volumes come to fruition. He completed much of the research and writing on this volume. Sadly, he was not to see the final volume of his magnum opus go to print and this is published posthumously. However, the work that is his legacy gives the Diocese of Achonry its own small piece in history as the first diocese in Ireland to have produced a full history from the earliest arrival of Christianity up to the modern era, and is a study that, as Bishop Breandán Ó Ceallaigh comments in his preface, is an invaluable resource.