THE PARISH priest of Glenavy and Killead says he will do `all he can' to restore St. Joseph's Church in Glenavy to its former glory.
Fr. Luke McWilliams made his pledge at Sunday masses after a survey showed the vast majority of the congregation wanted to see the present church restored rather than a new building.
The survey had been undertaken among 800 households after it became clear the fabric of the 135 year old church was succumbing to the ravages of time. The blackstone church was built on the site of an older church and officially opened in 1868. But as well as leaks in the roof, there have also been problems with rising damp in the walls, distressed stonework, metal corrosion, plaster adhesion failure, wet and dry fungal infestation and woodworm attack.
That led Fr. McWilliams to tell parishioners that steps needed to be taken soon before the condition of the church worsens.
Over 800 households were sent a questionnaire offering the option of restoring the building or a new church.
Fr McWilliams said over 242 had completed and returned the form, and of that number two thirds attend the church on a regular basis.
Of those nearly 80% expressed the wish the church building be repaired while just under 17% preferred a brand new building.
The remainder did not express a preference.
Fr. McWilliams said he realised that many people had put in a lot of time and effort into writing down their thoughts and feelings about what should happen. "You, the people of the parish, have spoken" he said. "As your parish priest I will do all that I can to see your wishes are fulfilled."
He said he would continue to keep the parish informed in the coming days and weeks.