A LOCAL parish priest has spoken of his "pride and joy" at the new £2 million St Thérèse church which will be opened and dedicated on Sunday (23rd September).

Canon Liam Stevenson has said the new Scarva Road building is "truly awe inspiring" and must rank as a real architectural gem.

Back in March 2006, work began on the construction of the new Church of St Thrse and now, only eighteen months later, the parishioners of the town, and the wider community, are about to celebrate the opening and solemn dedication of the magnificent building.

The church stands at the junction of Scarva Road and Edenderry Road and is approached by a paved walkway up to the large oak doors with their polished Armagh Stone surround. Parishioners then enter into the rotunda or principal porch with its high, vaulting ceiling and polished stone on floor and walls. There is access on the two sides to a repository and a staircase for the choir leading up to the gallery. The sheer scale and massing of the entrance porch sets a hallowed tone for the Church into which it directly leads.

Parish Priest, Canon Liam Stevenson, spoke of the pride and joy felt by everyone for their beautiful new Church.

"As a building it is truly awe inspiring and surely must be seen as an architectural gem," he explained.

"Next Sunday, in joyous celebration, we will gather together as a community to solemnly dedicate the Church as a House of God and fitting place of worship for many, many generations of families in the town and surrounding district.

"A house becomes a home when a family lives and grows in love within its walls. Just so, next Sunday the Church of Saint Thrse will become the spiritual home of a Christian people coming together to give thanks and to worship God and to dedicate themselves as a family community blessed by His all-embracing love and mercy."

Canon Stevenson also spoke of his personal joy at the messages of support and goodwill, which have come from right across the Christian community locally and much farther afield. He was greatly encouraged and thankful for all of this and is looking forward to welcoming Bishop John McAreavey, the clergy of the diocese and many representatives of other denominations to join in celebration at the ceremony on next Sunday afternoon.

Architecturally, the building is circular in shape with five annexes housing the imposing main entrance, a side-chapel, the Sanctuary and two side entrances. This design was chosen because of the wedge-shaped site and, also, it provides for a much better congregational area. The Church dominates the large site, which also houses the parish centre and parochial house.

A cloistered walkway to the left and right facilitates access for the congregation and the centre aisle leads directly to the Sanctuary. The Altar and all its furnishings are crafted from Portuguese marble and the central focus of the whole building – The Tabernacle – is framed with radiant, jewelled stained glass.

Secondary access to the Church is gained from both the Scarva Road side and from the main car park. These lead directly to the cloistered walks and the seating area, which has a huge capacity. The curved seats are fashioned in bespoke American white oak and radiate out from the Sanctuary all the way back to the main entrance. Around the walls there are beautiful stained glass windows which depict the seven Sacraments and an eighth one which was specially commissioned to reflect special features of the town of Banbridge: these include graphic pictorial references to Saint Patrick's Church in Dromore Street, 'The Cut' under Jingler's Bridge, the River Bann and, finally, a sheaf of flax to reflect the industrial heritage of the town.

Natural light and ventilation is provided for the interior at a higher level and one of the special architectural features is the spectacular halo-effect roof-light high up in the vaulted ceiling. Interestingly too, the Stations of the Cross around the walls of the cloister are those which hung in the old Church and which have been beautifully restored to pristine condition by the architect himself, Mr Brendan Laverty.

Finally, there is a suite of rooms, which houses the priests' sacristy and a flower-preparation room. All entrances to the Church have toilet facilities and the building is fully compliant with DDA regulations. The building is crowned with a spectacular seventeen-foot high stainless-steel cross which has been designed to give a three-dimensional appearance when viewed from any angle. Overall, the construction of this Church is a signal architectural triumph, which will be a place of Christian worship for many generations in Banbridge.