A fire that had been smouldering for up to eight hours caused significant damage to Clane Parish Church last week, but thankfully no major structural damage.

Opening the door of St. Patrick’s & St Brigid’s church last Thursday morning (28th August) , the local caretaker Jack Mc Cormack, was almost overcome by the smoke. Flames licked around the pillar at the front right hand side of the church, almost reaching the high roof of the neo-gothic structure which dates back to 1884.

Within minutes, fire brigade and Garda were on the scene, and within an hour the flames were brought under control. However the damage was extensive. The site of the fire was near the control panel for the electrics, and it is believed an electrical fault triggered it.

Patricia O’Neill, pastoral co-ordinator at the parish, told ciNews that major work will have to be done, including replacing one pillar, and the floor, which in one place was burnt right through to the crypt. In addition the organ is badly damaged by soot, and the whole church will have to be redecorated.

However the fire has brought a flood of offers of help and good wishes.

On Friday, after Mass in the parish centre, local volunteers got on their hands and knees and began the tough job of removing soot and grime from the marble, brass and wood around the altar, as when soot is mixed with water or moisture, it becomes corrosive. Time was of the essence to get rid of the soot before it had time to corrode the marble and brass. Throughout that day, volunteers came and went, each lending a hand.

“That is where you find God in these situations,” said Ms O’Neill, “the way people work together. They have been just wonderful.”

Meanwhile the local GAA has offered its hall for the Sunday 11.30 Mass, the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood school have offered their church for Saturday evening and the early Sunday morning Mass services, and the local Church of Ireland rector, Rev Kevin Ronn, has also offered to make the picturesque Church of Ireland church at Millicent available when needed.

In fact within days of the fire, two weddings were moved at short notice to the Boy’s chapel in Clongowes Wood, and this weekend, the presentation of three Bene merenti medals (awarded by the Vatican for service to the Church) will take place in Clongowes and Rathcoffey Church.

The fire comes as the parish oversees a major building project, converting an old convent building which adjoined the church, into a parish and community centre. Ms O’Neill believes that the repairs and refurbishment of the parish church will take many weeks to complete.

Clane has a population of about 6,000 people and is a vibrant parish community. This summer it sent 38 young people to World Youth Day in Australia, the biggest number from any single parish in Ireland.