“IT IS fantastic to be back in our parish family home.”

Those are the words of Father Mark Hogan, from St Joseph’s Church, in St Michael’s Road, South Ham, after the church officially moved back into its site following an arson attack in July 2016.

Sermons have been held at the church for around the past five weeks but on Saturday, 2 September, the church held an open day for visitors to come along to, which marked the official ‘re-opening’ of the church.

Fr Hogan said: “We are really pleased with the job done. Its amazing to be able to be here and pray in this space and offer a quiet place, away from it all, for the community to be able to come and reflect.

“The fire had such a big impact on the community and so we wanted to celebrate the fact that we are back in here by holding an open day.”

The fire happened in July 2016 when a neighbouring shed was set alight and damaged large parts of the lower section of the roof over the nave of the church.

Soot and smoke damage was also done to the pews and the carpets of the nave.

Since the arson attack, the church had been holding mass at the neighbouring Bishop Challoner Catholic Secondary School, using the school gym for larger occasions such as Easter and Christmas when up to 1,500 people attend.

Fr Hogan added: “The school has been fantastic to us. We have had a lot of support from the school, the community, the Diocese and help via community groups on Facebook offering help or time. The fire bridge was fantastic and I have to thank the neighbouring residents who called 999 when the fire began. “ Fr Hogan marked his 10th anniversary as father at the church on Friday, 1 September and the weekend was also his last at the church - he is moving to a parish in Winchester.