A celebration has taken place to mark the official opening and blessing of the Crypt meeting room at the Sacred Heart, Tunstall.

Bishop David McGough led the celebration in his home parish last month (May), and welcomed staff and parents from the local schools in the Newman Catholic Academy.

The Crypt meeting room, the second phase of a three-phase project - the vision of former parish priest Fr Christopher Miller - is now complete.

Underneath the sanctuary of the church, but still above ground level, there was an under-utilised space which at some point had been partitioned off into sacristies and small store rooms.

The first phase of the project was to relocate the sacristy upstairs, behind the high altar in the rear ambulatory. This freed the space downstairs. The partitions were removed, restoring the original floor plan and allowing natural daylight into the space from the windows at the east of the building.

The space was refurbished with level access, kitchen and disabled toilet facilities and fitted with a screen and sound system to make an attractive modern meeting room.

The Sacred Heart is a grade II listed building, opened in 1930.

The building was a real leap of faith: an ambitious and magnificent church constructed at a time of economic depression in a poor area.

The aim of the Crypt project is to build on this legacy and to use the church in the best possible way to serve the Gospel now, making the parish ready for mission.

The new Crypt meeting room will function as a catechetical centre for the parish and Catholic schools, and as a hub for the social life of the parish, a place to grow together as a Christian community.

It will also be a facility for outreach and service to the wider community. A number of community organisations have already expressed interest, and an official community launch is set to take place in the summer.

A number of grants enabled this project to take place.

The project began with a feasibility study grant from Awards for All.

Grants for the building work and refurbishment came from Stoke-on-Trent City Council; Allchurches Trust; Garfield Weston Foundation; National Churches Trust; Staffordshire Historic Churches Trust and Albert Gubay Foundation.

The design of the Crypt was by Andrew Capper of Stoke-on-Trent based Wood Goldstraw Yorath, and the parish has been supported through the process by David Russell of Wootton George Consulting Ltd, the Local Matters Team at the city council, Peter Lucas and local MP Ruth Smeeth.

The final phase will be the renovation of the day chapel.

The vision is for it to become the new Adoration Chapel, a place where Holy Mass is celebrated and where there would be Eucharistic Adoration daily.

As Fr Christopher Miller constantly reminded, the parishes which flourish are those that adore the Lord.

We pray that this new facility will be greatly blessed for the work of God’s Kingdom here in North Staffordshire.

Photos by Mark Lear

Celebration Mass, Sacred Heart, Tunstall