Journey to renovate and innovate St Mary’s Cathedral

a DARING initiative to protect the diocese of Ossory’s mother church and in so doing preserve one of Kilkenny city’s most important visitor attractions was launched last week.

a DARING initiative to protect the diocese of Ossory’s mother church and in so doing preserve one of Kilkenny city’s most important visitor attractions was launched last week.

It will take a total of E15 million to complete what Bishop of Ossory, Seamus Freeman SAC described as a journey to renovate, conserve, and innovate the structure and the spiritual character of St Mary’s Cathedral for the good of the people and the enhancement of the city. A sum of E4 million will be needed to replace the roof.

The plan also provides for an opening up of the building in a physical and spiritual sense. Already around E1.5 million has been spent on the Charter House adjacent to the cathedral and on the basement of the cathedral and which includes meeting rooms for hire, a canteen style buffet restaurant in the basement with a stunning outdoor, courtyard dwarfed by the side of the cathedral. The finish of the work is superb and shows what can be done.

During the work over 300 construction jobs will be created, bringing a lot of business to the city.

Bishop Freeman SAC accepted the renovation was a major undertaking but that given the condition of the cathedral and environs there is no other option. He thinks that people and priests deserve a centre that reflects a bringing together of Diocesan activity and if the first phase of the project is anything to go by it will be a major addition to the city. He made it clear that no further work will be done until sufficient fundraising had been completed. He said a project like this needed courage and enthusiastic support and said: “At the end of our collaboration, my prayer is that we can all be somewhat richer spiritually, even if we risk being a little poorer materially.”

He also made it clear that the church welcomed proposals from the public on how best to go forward.

Joe Meagher who is project manager said that the project was worth doing from a spiritual point of view because of the significance of St Mary’s, nationally and internationally.

Mr Meagher took the opportunity to thank the main contractors on the Charter House and cathedral basement; Kevin Moore & Co who he said were excellent; Dunreidy engineering and Vincent O’Brien, painting contractors. He also praised Kilkenny’s local authorities for their input, especially city and county architect, Evelyn Graham; planner Jane O’Reilly; Michael O’Boyle, consultant architect and engineer Dermot O’Shea of David Kelly & Assocs.

Mayor of the city, Cllr Sean OhArgain promised the support of the City Borough Council and he was thanked for that by MC for the evening, Fr Dan Carroll.

The next stage of the development will be the setting up of an oversight committee which in turns establishes a fundraising committee. Members of that committee are: Nicky Brennan, Fr Beningus Buckley, Ella Dunphy, David Fitzgerald, Bishop Freeman, Mayor Sean O’hArgain, Mons Kieran Kennedy, Eamon Langton, John Purcell, Kathleen Moran, Betty Manning, Sean Reidy, Mons Michael Ryan and Phil Walsh.

The plan would see a Blessed Sacrament Chapel, for use by all parishioners, placed underneath the main cathedral altar and this would cost E750,000.

It is estimated that it would be completed by mid 2013. The next phase would be the roof costing E4 million and finished, hopefully, by the end of 2014. Work on the external walls and windows costing E2 million would start early in 2015 and finally, the most expensive part of the blueprint, the internal renovations costing in the region of E8.25 million would start, bringing the entire project to an end by 2016.

Bishop Freeman said that no phase will go ahead unless the money is in place to pay for it and while he would like to complete it within the time frame but that if there was a delay of year or to that was acceptable but you sensed he is a man on a mission and that he will do all in his power to complete it within the time frame and the budget.