Last weekend Longford celebrated one of its biggest events for the Gathering 2013 - The St Mel’s Festival.
Social events, talks and walks were organised for the festival. Undoubtedly the highlight, however, was the moment St Mel’s Cathedral was once again opened to the public.
On Sunday morning, ticket holders were invited to the Cathedral for a guided tour. At 1.30pm, queues began, as the general public gathered to get a glimpse of the work carried out so far.
With a steady stream of people passing through, the queue stretched from the front of the Cathedral, out the gate, and around the corner to the Family Centre.
It was truly a day of mixed emotions. As the location for christenings, weddings, communions, confirmations, funerals and more, the Cathedral was, and still is, close to the hearts of many. Though the devastation caused by the fire in 2009 was still evident, so too was the incredible work that has been carried out so far. Many of the Cathedral’s features were still recognisable, including the Tabernacle, which - remarkably - remained somewhat unscathed by the fire.
President of the Longford Chamber of Commerce, Seamus Butler was happy with how well the open day went, adding that it was a “true Gathering” with thousands turning up from far and near to view the Cathedral. The memorabilia on sale outside the Cathedral afterwards - including commemorative booklets, keyrings and coins - sold very well.
Mr Butler was also amazed by the crowds, noting that the queue often spread down St Mel’s Road. “We were blessed with the weather of course” he laughed.
Bishop-elect Father Francis Duffy, who will be ordained this coming Sunday, was also in attendance on the day, and stayed all afternoon to greet those eager to see the Cathedral.
Mr Butler also revealed that more than 3,000 people signed in, but he reckons that more than 4,000 visited, as many signed in on behalf of groups. “It was a great day for Longford, and a great day for the Cathedral project”, Mr Butler said, adding his thanks to the people and the interest they have in the Cathedral.
It is hoped that St Mel’s Cathedral will be re-opened on Christmas Eve, 2014.