CHRISTMAS was extra special for a parish in Strabane, after it secured a windfall to the tune of almost £400,000.
A fund-raising group at the Church of the Immaculate Conception revealed that they have been successful with their bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for £375,400 to support the ongoing Church Restoration and Inclusive Participation Project.
Described as “historic and momentous,” the financial boon will provide a timely boost to the project, which has already been running for several years.
Aiming to restore the church’s roof, gutters and drainage as well as establish an exhibition space above the sacristy, the project will also see a number of celebratory events next year, which is the church’s 125th anniversary year.
“Now is a time to rejoice for this grant is a massive boost for our project, for our people and for the entire community of Strabane,” parish priest, Fr Declan Boland said. “As pastor, I am more than proud and delighted to be part of this exciting project.
“The reaction of our people when I announced the news… was one of immense satisfaction, pride and joy. Their bigness of heart and generosity has brought us to this day. In no small part, they are the heroes of the hour.”
Since the restoration fundraiser began just three years ago some £200,000 has already been raised through the community.
Fr Boland continued, “This is an historic and momentous time for our parish and for the people of Strabane and further afield as we seek to restore this iconic building to its former glory.”
Referring to the monies already raised through the community, he added, “This was one clear sign, among others, to the committee at the National Lottery Heritage Fund that we were very serious bidders when we made our application for funding.
“Due to the hard work of the magnificent Heritage Project Team in our parish, Lorraine Gallen, Community Heritage Project manager, Eoghan Devery, Built Heritage Project manager, Amanda Cairns, parish administrator and Roisin Doherty, curator, our bid for £370,400 has been successful.”
The local priest also paid tribute to the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund and its manager, Lorraine Robinson whose help, he said was “invaluable.”
“This is the first part of a three phase project,” he said. “The second phase will be the stained glass windows and the third, the stonework. Because of this we will have to continue to fundraise well into the future.”
Local Community Heritage Project manager, Lorraine Gallen added, “I am personally overjoyed with the outcome of our application… Not only do we now have the ability to begin the critical construction works… but we will also be in a position to bring the heritage of the church to life, which was a missing piece in the jigsaw of the community.
“The project will also provide trained volunteer opportunities to local people during the year.”
Also thanking the National Lottery Heritage Fund, she added, “I am very excited to see the work begin!”