History’s made as St Columb’s Cathedral’s first female canon is appointed

St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry is to get its first female canon in its 400-year history.

Rev Katie McAteer’s appointment to the Chapter of the Cathedral Church of St Columb is one of two announced today by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster. Rev Robert Boyd, the Rector of Glendermott and Newbuildings Parish has also been appointed a Canon.

By happy coincidence, today – the Feast Day of St John the Baptist – is the anniversary of both new canons’ ordinations. Rev Boyd and Rev McAteer will fill the positions left vacant following the departure of the Ferry brothers – Rev Canon David, who has retired, and Rev Malcolm, who has become the Rector of Agherton Parish in Portstewart.

Rev McAteer, who is the Pastoral Director of the Christ Church. Culmore, Muff and St Peter’s Group of Parishes, said she was humbled and honoured by the appointment, but also “sort of excited”.

“When Bishop Andrew first asked me, I was totally taken aback,” Rev McAteer said. “It was never on my radar, never in a million years – or even 400 years – would I have expected the Bishop to ask me to accept this appointment.

“St Columb’s Cathedral, probably more than any other cathedral, has been a history-maker – the first cathedral built in these islands after the Reformation, playing a leading role as a place of reconciliation – and now another brick is being laid in its rich history.

“I still keep thinking, ‘No, not me. It can’t be me.’ It’s exciting. It’s quite daunting. I’m humbled and honoured.”

Rev McAteer, whose father was a Canon of Chester Cathedral, evoked the words of the Ordination Service. “Throughout ministry, whatever God calls us to do, we pray that He will give us ‘the needful gifts of grace’ to fulfil that ministry. I’m hoping that this is at God’s direction; I can only do this in God’s strength.”

While this is new territory for Rev McAteer, the second new canon is on familiar ground. Rev Boyd, was a Canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh until three years ago, a position he relinquished when he was appointed incumbent of the Parish of Glendermott and Newbuildings. He has since taken up the role of Diocesan Director of Ordinands for Derry and Raphoe.

“I feel very privileged and very honoured by the appointment,” Rev Boyd said. “I’m extremely grateful to Bishop Andrew for having the confidence in me to appoint me to this role and for thinking me worthy of it. I think it’s an honour, too, for the Parish of Glendermott and Newbuildings, so I’m very pleased that our parishioners are also being acknowledged and recognised by the Bishop.”

The installation of a new canon is a significant and joyful occasion for any cathedral but given its uniqueness, the forthcoming Service of Installation in St Columb’s – with its historical first – will arouse considerable interest within the Church of Ireland and beyond. A date has yet to be fixed for the Service but it is hoped it will take place in the early autumn.

St Columb’s Cathedral, which was completed in 1633, was the first Anglican cathedral built in the British Isles after the Reformation in 1517.