THEY arrived in their hundreds throughout the day after the church doors were unlocked for the first time in six years.
Despite the recent tribul-ations of the Catholic Church, anyone who feared for its future will be heartened by the support shown to a group of priests who aim to restore a city church to its former glory.
There is no doubt that the young priests, who belong to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, have a lot of work to do at the Sacred Heart Church in Limerick which they re-opened at the weekend.
The church, which had been on the market for more than €4m, was sold last week to the community of priests for €700,000.
There are no pews or statues, water from the roof drips into confessional boxes, the tabernacle needs to be repaired and an altar must be built.
Nevertheless, people returned in their droves at the weekend, when candles were lit and the organ sounded for the first time since 2006.
The Jesuits vacated the church six years ago citing an aging clergy, but their successors are hopeful that Latin Mass will be celebrated as early as next month.
French Canon Wulfran Lebocq (38) said yesterday that the church will be open before Christmas "hopefully in October or November".
"I was very happy today to see how many candles were lit in such a short time," he said. "People are coming here to pray and thank God for this great haven for Limerick.
"We must reorganise many things. Everything that was here was sold -- there was a big auction and there was no maintenance here for many years.
"We need to do urgent repairs on the roof. The gutters need to be changed -- there are many leaks.
"The heating system will be very expensive -- repairing that, finding pews and repairing gutters are our priority."
More than €100,000 is needed for repairs and refitting.
Founded in 1990, the Institute of Christ the King is a Catholic order with 64 priests worldwide who traditionally celebrate Mass in Latin.
John O'Connor (12), from Creeves Cross, Co Limerick, who hopes to serve at Latin Mass, arrived with his father David and sister Therese (11).
"I'm a qualified altar server and familiar with the Latin Mass.
"I think it is a much better Mass -- it's more traditional," he said.
Eva McManus travelled all the way from Westport, Co Mayo, to help clean up.
"I hoped to lend a hand but because of the insurance rules they can't have people coming in working, so it all has to be done during the week," she said.
"But I will absolutely have to make an effort to come back and help out.
"I am really looking forward to the first Mass. The Sacred Heart is a beautiful church and I hope people help the order to restore it."