Construction work to create a new Sacramental Chapel inside St. Mary’s Church in Creggan is set to get under way within weeks.
The contract has now been signed for the £400,000 programme of works, which will see a chapel developed at the eastern transept. Work is due to start at the beginning of next month.
The project is the second part of a three-phase programme of works to provide upgraded facilities tailored to the local parish.
It is hoped the second phase will be finished in time for Christmas and that the third phase will be completed in time for the 60th anniversary of the opening of St Mary’s Church in 2019.
Creggan priests, Father Joseph Gormley and Father Paul Fraser, were joined by local residents as they signed the building contract on Friday and said they were delighted the project had got to this stage after three years of planning and fundraising in conjunction with the local community.
The Sacramental Chapel has been designed by architect Peter Tracey and the building work will be undertaken by Donohoe Builders, with Burke Morrison the electrical consultants.
Fr Gormley said: “What we want to make sure, is that the church is a place where people feel welcome and where they can experience a place of prayer and healing.
“The church, when built, would have sat 1,200 people and as we all know, numbers have declined over the years.
“There’s now an opportunity to make use of the space in a way which helps the people in this parish to grow in their faith in new ways, and to welcome people to the church that may have not been there for some time.
“Thanks to the generosity of many people, we have already been able to install a new heating system last year, which was a huge undertaking.
“With the phase we are commencing now, the main part of the church will be used for Sundays, funerals and weddings and large gatherings and the space we are going to create now will be a day church for about 100 people, where daily Mass will be held and a space for prayer, and, particularly, prayer for healing.
“There’s also two new Confessionals and we hope to dedicate the Church to the Divine Mercy.”
“We’re very grateful to the people of this parish and everyone else who has been so generous to enable this to happen. We hope the whole place here will be a space where people will feel welcome and experience the healing mercy of Jesus.
“Man proposes but God disposes. We proposed and, my attitude is, if God wants this to happen, He will make it happen.
“I believe it is the faith and goodness of God, working through the people here, that has enabled us to get to this stage. Fr. Paul and myself feel very humbled to be in Creggan at this time.
“We are very grateful to everyone who has contributed to our draw. We hope to take in £150,000 and we hope to give out £75,000 of that in prizes. We have an early bird draw next month and there’s a limited 1,500 tickets and at this stage there’s over 1,200 tickets sold.
“Fr. Paul has a great mind on him and has been fantastic in terms of getting the draw up and running. We have very, very good people who have plugged away at fundraising over the years and we have a good draw committee and a good fundrasing committee.”
If anyone wants tickets for the draw they can contact the Parochial House at St. Mary’s.
The final phase of the works will involve the creation of a Community Room where people can meet after Mass for tea and coffee and where families can gather and for parish meetings. It is hoped this work will start after Christmas.
“There’s a whole renewal within the Creggan area and this fits in with that and we want to thank everyone who has helped bring that about,” Fr. Gormley said.
Local resident, Margaret McGlinchey, said the community had pulled together to get behind the plans, adding that it was great to see the project get to this stage.
“The church here is our centre-point and it’s our meeting place,” she said.
The church will remain open for Sundays, weddings and funerals during the Phase Two works. Weekday Masses may move to another venue and local people will be notified about this in due course.