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Restoration work at Abbey church 

The scaffolding around the bell tower during the project. Photo courtesy Abbot Pereira

By Kaelanne Jordan,

Abbot John Pereira OSB said that the monks are very pleased with the completed restoration of the bell tower at Mt St Benedict. Renovations commenced February 23 to address the damage and cracks to its structure, and were completed March 8. The cost of the bell tower project was TT$180,675 and funding came from the Mt St Benedict Monastery.

The project adds a “brand new light” on the Mount, Abbot Pereira told Catholic News via phone last Monday. Renovation encompassed crews of Danclar’s Painting Services firstly erecting scaffolding, pressure washing, priming and painting the bell tower.

Abbot Pereira said the monks recognised that the bell tower needed a facelift, “But we have to eat humble pie and say this is the only thing that can be done.”

The bell tower houses three bells, one large, medium and small bell. Abbot Pereira noted that these bells came into the possession of the monastery about 100 years ago. While their location has changed over the years, “this is their resting place,” he said. The ringing of the bells, which can be heard in the vicinity of Santa Margarita, St Augustine and Tunapuna, has not been affected during renovation works.

Commenting on the renovation, Abbot Pereira revealed the monks at the Mount looked at different ways to address the project including consultations with contractors who suggested avenues which the monks determined “inadequate” or not effective enough.

He explained, “At the time, we had a maintenance committee and they were looking for ways and means of doing a good job but at a minimal cost. We even got someone to come and look at it and give us ideas. However we tried our best, but eventually we just could not avoid scaffolding. And scaffolding is a very expensive piece of work.”

Abbot Pereira revealed that the total cost of the scaffolding was TT$90,000 calculated at a daily rate for an estimated completion time of two weeks. The full cost of the project was inclusive of the scaffolding cost.

Responding to the question of other works being done at the Mount, he said because of the age of the monastery and its structure, maintenance is an ongoing item on the agenda. He said that the monks have been addressing major structural challenges. This included a recent and “major expense” which entailed the expenditure of TT$1.5 M on the overhaul of the entire water collection and distribution network.

One hundred years ago, Abbot Pereira explained, the water system came from two sources: from a spring in the hills and one on the estate. “So the early monks did a fantastic job of setting up a network with lines running through the complex. Lines laid over 100 years ago started to break down and we had endless issues here with water. But we had to address the situation and take a very radical step,” he said.

Mt St Benedict supplies water at no charge to monks, retreatants, pilgrims, the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, PAX Guest House, St Peter’s Home for the Aged, the Carmelites Convent, St Bede’s School of Technology, for the production of Mount St Benedict PAX Yogurt, sports field, and other tenants and residents in the area.

Abbot Pereira made a point to clarify that they are not established as a water purveyor, hence, they do not charge their tenants water rates.

He added that at present, the monks have observed water seeping through various parts of the walls mainly near the library, and part of church’s ceiling collapsed.

Persons interested in making a financial assistance for the preservation of the historic monastery can contact the monks at 662-2259 or 662-5286.