WITHIN minutes of hearing that the Catholic church at Swanley, Kent, was on fire last week two local Anglican vicars rang the parish priest and offered him the use of their churches and church halls.
"It was a very touching gesture. We have always been on friendly terms here and this V. ill help to bring us closer together." said Fr. Patrick Flanagan, the parish priest.
The offers came from Rev. P. Peterken of St. Mary's and Rev. John McNichol] of St. Paul's.
Fr. Flanagan managed to save the Blessed Sacrament and a few vestments and altar vessels from the 34-year-old wooden church. "Otherwise I'm afraid it's a write-off," he said. "The little building went up like matchwood. 1 have heard about things like this but never realised how tough it is until it hit myself," Fr. Flanagan, born at Lurgan, came to Swanley five years ago this month, the first priest to take up residence in the parish. The church was neglected then, but over the years he and his parishioners worked hard until, as he says, "it looked very nice".
"But now years of hard work have 4ruie up in smoke and the parishioners are very distressed," he added.
About 500 people go to Mass in Swanley every Sunday and the nearest church is live miles away in St. Mary Cray. Fr. Flanagan is now hoping for a site to build a new church. Until he gets it he has hired the local community centre for Sunday Masses and has been offered every possible help from the chairman of the Dartford Rural Council, Mr. L Reeves.
He will not use the Anglican churches—not because they are Anglican, but because the community centre is more central and has better parking facilities for his parishioners,