Thought for the week

On This Day:


Our church has witnessed a wide range of human feelings and sentiments: the joy and miracle of new birth brought for baptism wrapped in shawls and smiles; the tears that flow when a dear one’s mortal remains is conveyed to the front of the altar for requiem Mass.

   And in between – the excitement of a First Communion or Confirmation day when giddy children gather, as they have done for generations beneath the portico of classical proportions.

   The bride in her white dress and bouquet: the nervous groom. That’s the way it has been since 1856. It has given hope to the downcast; given sanctuary to the hopeless and the homeless; has been an inspiration for the lonely and depressed. Truly – the house of God.

   But did you know that on this day, one hundred years ago, Mary Immaculate went up in flames? Here’s what happened.

   On 26th January 1920, the sacristan arrived to open the church for the 7am Mass to discover that the switch panel was on fire. He raised the alarm but the whole area in front of the altar was already in flames.

   At 9am the dome collapsed, crashing to the ground with a sound that was heard for miles around. Despite the flames, the curate, Fr O’Loughlin succeeded in removing the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle.           

   But like the Phoenix, and in an incredibly short space of time, Mary Immaculate was restored to its former glory. Here is an account from The Freeman’s Journal, 5th July, 1920:

   The solemn reopening of the Church of Our Lady of Refuge took place yesterday with fitting solemnity. The beautiful edifice was destroyed by fire last January, very little, beyond the bare walls being saved. With characteristic generosity, the Catholics of the Parish and of the city set themselves to the duty of repairing the effects of the devastation. His Grace the Archbishop headed the list of subscriptions with one of £1,000.

   On this day, 100 years later let us salute the courage and resilience of the many who helped restore our church; let us honour the many who have found hope and consolation within its walls. Deo gratias.              

Fr William