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First female rector excited to take up Westport position in April


NEW CHALLENGE Canon Jennifer McWhirter is moving to Westport.

Anton McNulty

THE new Church of Ireland Rector of the Aughaval Group of Parishes in west Mayo says she is excited to be the first female to take up the position.
Canon Jennifer McWhirter will take up her new position following a Service of Installation in the Holy Trinity Church in Westport on April 3. The 43-year-old native of Antrim is currently in charge of the Killala Group of Parishes in north Mayo and will succeed the Reverend Val Rogers, who retired last September.
The mother of two young children will be the first female rector of the Aughaval Group of Parishes which covers the Church of Ireland churches in Westport, Achill, Castlebar and Turlough and said she is excited by the challenge.
“It is exciting to be the first female rector but I was also the first female rector in Templepatrick and Donegore [parish in Co Antrim] and I never faced any problems. I was well received and I hope it will be the same again,” she told The Mayo News.
“I am looking forward to the challenge [of the new position]. It is a bigger parish than where I am at the moment which means more work but I am looking forward to settling in and getting to know the people.”
Canon McWhirter was ordained in 2004 and is married to Stephen, who is the Rector in charge of the Kilmore Union of Parishes in Ballina and also the Archdeacon of the Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry. They moved to Ballina five years ago but before moving she served as Rector of Templepatrick and Donegore parish. She was also the chaplain in Belfast City Hospital and also served in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast and in St Nicholas Parish on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
“We love it here in Mayo and settled in well into life in the west of Ireland. We love the pace of life and the people,” she explained.
Canon McWhirter said the family will move to Westport and her five year old daughter will start school in Holy Trinity School. The school is currently located across the road from the Holy Trinity Church in Westport but plans are in place to move to the former Scoil Phádraig building on Altamont Street.
The Mayo News has learned that officials from the Department of Education have been on site and they are disposed towards a new build rather than the refurbishment of the existing building.