Monday 21 April 2014

Out of the ashes, St Catherine’s Church rises again

St Catherine’s Church has held pride of place in the Liberties for decades.

Generations of locals have been baptised, confirmed, married and had funerals there – and it is central to the fabric of the South Inner City Commuity.

Almost two years ago, the community was devastated when a man set fire to the church destroying it’s interior.

Fears grew that the church would not open its doors again due to the costly damage.

However, the community got behind a massive fundraising effort to open the doors of St Catherine’s again.

Today, it became a reality.

After lengthy renovations, the parishioners of the church on Dublin's Meath Street, are looking forward to attending mass in St Catherine’s this weekend.

Locals have a look around St Catherine's church. Photo: Mark Condren
Locals have a look around St Catherine's church. Photo: Mark Condren

"I was standing outside the parochial house on January 2, and Margaret McKenna- one of the ladies from the parish- came running across the road shouting.

"By the time I got there it was too late, the church was already gone," Fr Niall Coghlan said.

The Christmas crib in the church had been ignited by a homeless man, and when the fire fighters opened the door to try to extinguish the flames, an inferno ripped through the building, destroying everything in its path in just 30 seconds.

"An explosion went from one end of the church to the other. Every single piece of the church was on fire. But the great thing is that nobody was hurt," Fr Coghlan explained.

An extensive €4.1million renovation project was then undertaken on the 19th century building, and construction workers uncovered French limestone underneath the layers of melted paint.

The limestone pillars, along with the new parquet floor, have restored the building to its former glory.

Fr Coghlan dismissed the criticism that they have received for the hefty reconstruction bill, and said that the money used has also benefitted the local economy.

"It might have cost €4.1m, but to the Irish economy, you can double that.

"We employed people for two years in a very bleak time. The local area benefited from the fact that there were so many people working in the church," the parish priest said.

Over the years, St Catherine's attracted several high profile mass-goers, including local Liberties girl Imelda May and Hollywood actor Martin Sheen.

The church will host guided tours today and tomorrow, and on Sunday, the parishioners will be welcomed back with a special celebratory mass.

"I am looking forward to it for the people," Fr Coghlan said.

Adding: "This is the people of Dublin's church. I think people will come here to pray, and I think it will lift your heart."

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