Built in 1862, by the end of the twentieth century St Mary's Church was showing her age. The "Grand Old Lady" of Patrick Street needed more than just a touch of make-up to restore her to her former glory.
With a blindness born of long familiarity, most parishioners were not really aware of how bad things were, but when Fr Andrew Carroll became Parish Priest in 1994 he was appalled by the dilapidated state of the building. When returning home from anywhere he was in the habit of making a detour so that he would not have to look at the Patrick Street facade with its crumbling stonework and trees growing out of the wall!
The famous Greenock weather had taken its toll. Damp had penetrated the stonework; the roof timbers had rotted. Occasionally people in the pews were showered with plaster and debris from the roof, which leaked badly. Worrying noises were heard when a strong wind was blowing. One rainy morning during 10 o'clock Mass Fr Andrew had just said, "Lord, wash away my iniquities and cleanse me from my sins", when with perfect timing a splash of water from the roof landed on his head!
Fr Andrew saying Mass on a dry day!
Something had to be done. Emergency repairs were carried out on the roof beams. A complete survey was undertaken. A steering group was set up and plans were set in motion for major repairs and refurbishment of the church. In January 1999 Fr Andrew boldly launched an appeal for £1 million. 2002 was chosen as the target date, this being the 140th anniversary of the opening of the church.
Funding was obtained from Historic Scotland and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and parishioners made herculean efforts to raise the balance. Even the Children’s Liturgy saved 20p pieces in Smartie tubes!
The church soon disappeared under a cloak of scaffolding.
Emerging from the cocoon.
The church is now in good repair, and its facilities have been upgraded to meet modern standards. The feeling of light and space strikes us immediately as we survey the church from the new glass porch.
For a whole year we squashed into the church hall for Mass and other functions. At last the work was done and we could go “home”. On 10 April 2003 a packed congregation gathered for the official reopening of the church, and the dedication of the new altar. Click here for memories of that great day.
Newly renovated, looking nice and clean! Roof renewed, stonework restored.
Looking to the back of the church before renovation.
After renovation. The old organ pipes which obscured the windows have been removed; the front of the choir loft and the wooden partitions of the rear porch have been replaced with plain glass,making the church much brighter.
But there was something missing. The back wall of the Sanctuary above the Tabernacle looked very bare, obviously crying out for something to fill the space, but what? After months of deliberation and head-scratching, Mgr John had a brainwave. The old, very dilapidated crucifix which used to hang at the back of the church was just the right size. Monsignor arranged for it to be repaired and repainted and hung in the Sanctuary, where it forms a striking focal point.
Click here to read a little story about our crucifix.
The Finishing Touch
The new altar and matching ambo incorporate marble from the old altar rails.