A prayer service took place on Sunday 6th March outside St Mary's Catholic Church in New Brighton to mark the closure of the church.
The church, due to celebrate its centennial later this year, will be demolished due to damage incurred from the earthquake on 22 February.
Over 200 attended the service including Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, Bishop Barry Jones, Parish Priest of 10 years, Father Bryan Parish, and former Parish Priest of 18 years, Father Pat Crawford.
Father Parish spoke of his connection to the parish community, which goes back as far as his great grandmother. “Little would she have known that her great grandson would be standing here today as parish priest,” he said. Her funeral was held in the Church in 1924, the same year St Mary's New Brighton became a parish in its own right.
Father Crawford who was Parish Priest during the Vatican II changes expressed the importance of making sure nothing takes attention away from the Word and the Eucharist. “As we stand here today we can still see the wonder and beauty of the church in the people,” he said.
Bishop Barry described the day as one of both sadness and thanksgiving. “Sadness because the 100 years' history of this church has come to a sudden and unexpected end” and “thanksgiving for all the workings of God's grace that have come into countless lives of people in this church”.
Chairperson of the Parish Council, Paul Foley, described parishioners' excitement at being able to return to the Church after the September 2010 earthquake, when it received only a few cracks. He said it was fortunate that the parish community was “strong and faith-filled” and how they were looking forward to laying a new foundation stone in the future.