The official rededication ceremony at St Mary of the Visitation Church, Killybegs, will take place on Monday next, October 1st, at 7pm. It will be presided over by Dr Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe, and priests from throughout the diocese will attend. Fr Colm Ó Gallchóir PP will be accompanied by Fr Seamus Gallagher, Killybegs.
After the rededication ceremony, there will be a buffet in the Tara Hotel at which everyone is welcome.
The project has taken 17 months to complete and involved restoration to many parts of the 168-year-old building and some reconstruction. Planned and overseen by Derry architects, Mullarkey Pedersen, the main contractors were McCann Brothers of Omagh. In line with a decision taken by the parish building committee, the majority of the subcontractors employed were from County Donegal.
The principal structural work involved the construction of an apse behind the main altar and the erection of a 65ft spire on top of the church tower, both features in the original design of John Papworth but which were not built in the mid-1800s due to cost. The church has also been completely re-roofed and all the guttering replaced. Water penetration was a big problem and a major part of the restoration work was the picking off of all the concrete on the exterior walls and its replacement with lime plaster. This will allow the walls to “breathe” and dry out over time. Internally, the church has had a beautiful new floor laid, all the windows secured and has been completely repainted. New seating has also been installed and a new sacristy has been built near the main entrance. The former sacristy will now serve as a room for the children’s liturgy and as a location for the weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 6pm on Sundays to midnight on Mondays. The groundworks are nearly completed also.
A major difference to the frontage of the church is the open aspect of the front door and the flight of steps leading up to it. This will provide a dramatic view of the church in the absence of the old parish office building which was demolished at the start of the restoration project.As part of the detail of the new entrance, a monument has been erected, using stone from the chimney of the old sacristy, on which a commemorative plaque has been placed to record the work carried out. A small contemplative garden has also been incorporated into the design as a memorial to those who have lost their lives at sea.
The first Sunday masses will be celebrated in the restored church this weekend at the usual times of 7pm on Saturday and 9am and 11am on Sunday. From this week on, Masses will no longer be celebrated in the Tara Hotel or in the Foresters Hall. Fr Colm has unveiled plaques in both places to mark the gratitude of the parish for the use of the facilities while the church was being restored.
A team is being put together to look after the daily opening and closing of the church. Anyone who would like to be on the rota, please contact Fr Colm or Ann at the Parish Office (074 973 1013).
Meanwhile, fundraising continues to raise as much as possible of the €1m still to be raised towards the cost of the restoration work.
Some tickets are still available for the concert by James Kilbane and his Country Band in The Blue Haven on Sunday, 7th October. Proceeds will go to support St Mary’s Restoration Fund and “Rebuild for Bosnia”, a housing charity for Bosnian refugees. Tickets at €15 each are available from Declan McGee’s Photocentre, Main Street, from the Parish Office or from Celia McGee at 085 2806365.
Other fundraising projects for the restoration work include a scrap metal collection, which is on-going. Contact the Parish Office to arrange collection. And the appeal is continuing for sheep farmers to donate the value of one lamb from their flocks. Again, arrangements can be made through the Parish Office.