Fr Gates' Speech at Official Opening

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. We gather this evening as a parish community to give thanks to God for this wonderful facility which is our new parish centre. Many of us have looked forward to this day and now we give praise to God for us his graciousness towards us.

I wish to welcome Fr Peter Murphy, PP, Ardee, who with the Centre Committee, Mgr O’Byrne and Fr Moore, was the inspiration behind this new centre, I hope that you find the new building worthy of your vision.

I welcome Canon Terry Scott and members of the Church of Ireland, here in Magherafelt, who were so gracious to us when we visited their St Swithin’s parish hall and gave us so many ideas for our own. I also welcome Mervin & Mrs Gregg, Yvonne & Tommy and other members of the Baptist Church, we are delighted to have you join us this evening.

I greet all involved in the construction of our New Parish Centre present among us, representatives from McGurk Architects, Corramore Construction, AD Chartered Surveyors, S2K Ltd, Integrated Services Design Ltd, H.M. Electrics Ltd, Bateson Brothers and Gerry McCann from Building Control, Magherafelt District Council. In welcoming Gerry, I also welcome Sean Henry, Community Relations Officer, Magherafelt District Council.

I am particularly delighted to have the principals of our Parish Schools with us, Mrs Mary White, of St Pius X College, Mr Paul Campbell representing Mr David Lambon, St Mary’s Grammar School, Mr Peter Donnelly, Holy Family PS, and Mr Charlie Boardman, New Row PS, Castledawson. I also welcome Mr Kevin Cassidy, Chairman of O’Donovan Rossa GAC.

But above all I welcome you the people of Magherafelt to this your new Parish Centre. I am well aware of the importance and esteem in which St John’s Hall is held in the memory of the people of Magherafelt. It is my earnest wish and desire that generations to come will speak of this new centre with the same degree of fondness and ownership.

I arrived in Magherafelt on 1 September 2008, when the footings and half the walls of this new centre were in place. I must confess to raising an eyebrow when I was informed that this was to be the new Parish Centre. Having come from a parish were we had just closed something similar due to lack of use, I initially thought these people are off their rocker. However, having met with all involved in the project, the architect, the Parish Centre Committee and the priests and having seen their enthusiasm and vision it wasn’t long before I became convinced that this was a project well worth pursuing.

At this point I would like to pay tribute to the Centre Committee, Paddy Young, Una O’Kane, Raymond Collins and Patsy Forbes. I feel that we have been truly blessed to have those four individuals involved in this enterprise, their generosity with their time knew no bounds. Their collective wisdom was invaluable. As busy people they often found time for 2, 3 or once even 4 meetings a week and all meetings lasted at least two hours. They were always available to me at the drop of a hat and I cannot thank them enough. In thanking and paying tribute to them, I must also pay tribute to my colleagues Fr Moore and Mgr O’Byrne, whose support to me and their knowledge of the parish has been indispensable. I can truly say that I could not have hoped to have two more supportive colleagues and I thank them for all we have shared together since my arrival in the parish. I also thank the Parish Secretary Anne, who has been affected most by the opening of the Parish Centre, Anne had to endure the upheaval of moving office from the Parochial House to the new Office below. For all her kind cooperation and support in what wasn’t an easy transition I thank her most sincerely.

Many people made our vision come to reality and so I thank Colm, Bernard and Stephen of McGurk Architects for their professionalism and courtesy at all times. In particular, I wish to thank Bernard and Stephen for their availability and for their patience with my incessant phone calls and inquiries. I thank Jonathon Payne and Adrian McIvor of Corramore Construction Ltd for their excellent work, for their facilitation of the changes we made during construction and for keeping costs to a minimum even with those changes. We greatly appreciate the quality of your work and the professionalism with which it was effected. On Friday morning last I came here to the Hall and found Adrian with a buffer buffing the floors, that’s what I call a hands on boss. I thank Damien Walls of Ad Chartered Surveyors for his courtesy and graciousness in all our dealings, his constant reassurance and most importantly for making sure we didn’t overspend. I thank Patsy Harkin &  Kieran Crowe of Integrated Services Design Ltd, Robert Paul of S2K Ltd, Declan & Hugh McAlary of HM Electrics and Joe Bateson of Bateson Bros Ltd for their efficiency and excellent standard of work.

But if I may be forgiven to thank in particular one person it must be Damien Kerr, Foreman from Corramore Construction. I believe I speak on behalf of all involved in the erection of this New Parish Centre in saying that we were truly blessed in having Damien so closely involved. As a parishioner, this was a project very close to his heart and Damien ensured that everything was done to the highest standard. Nothing was ever a problem for Damien and on a personal note I wish to thank you Damien for your kindness and courtesy to me at all times, even when things got stressful from time to time. This building is in no small part a credit to you and our parish is indebted to you.

Finally may I thank all involved and I hope that I have omitted no one. If I have my sincere apologies. I hope that this centre will be a great facility for the parish and wider community and that it will be used and supported by all.