“IT’S been a different adventure and it’s been an exciting adventure to get to this point,” says Rector Fr Michael Murtagh as the finishing touches are put in place to reopen Clonard church on March 25. The church, which closed its doors a year ago to undergo extensive restoration work, will reopen to the public in less than a fortnight. Fr Murtagh told the Andersonstown News that the work had certainly been worthwhile and added: “It’s a relief to see it all coming together.”

“All the people who worked on restoring the church have really gone the extra mile here. When the church closed its doors the construction workers and painters started to work from the ceiling down. It was painted meticulously and for me it’s the first thing people will notice when they walk in through our doors. It just gives a tremendous sense of height to the building.

“Our new floor is really something as the men worked up from the foundations. We had a wooden floor for years and it would be fair to say it was in a bit of state. It had collapsed in parts, which wasn’t ideal, and now it has been resurfaced and tiled with new underfloor heating installed which will be beneficial in the winter,” he said.

“We sold 25,000 tiles when we had our ‘Buy A Tile’ campaign and people will be able to see these on the new floor.

“We are thankful to all of the community, benefactors, sponsors and donors for their contributions to the restoration of the church and for their patience. All the names of those who have helped us get to stage will be put into a book of benefactors which will go under the altar during the opening Mass.”

Fr Murtagh explained how the work has enabled parts of the church to be shown off in a “new, bright and fresh way.”

“You can see that the amount of work undertaken has been huge. The work shows off parts that were hidden before such as the mosaics, which look like new.

“Basically, this project was all about renewal and restoring and we are full steam ahead for our official opening on March 25.”

Fr Murtagh said with a smile that now the renovations were almost completed, “I can get back to saying more prayers and trying to be holy again.”

He went on: “It’s hard to keep people out at the moment and there is a real buzz around the place and a great sense of curiosity. Everyone is welcome on the 25th and if people can’t make it there will be plenty of days after that. People can come and visit in their own time and in their own way.

“This is our centenary year and we have so much coming up over the next number of months. The Ulster Orchestra is coming on April 3 for a performance, we have Easter and then the Novena.

“What seemed so daunting at the start has pieced together beautifully and we look forward to welcoming the community back to the church.”

The reopening and Ceremony of Dedication at the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer will take place on Sunday, March 25 at 11.30am.