Restoration is projected to begin at the 118-year-old St Francis of Assisi RC church, Belmont, at the end of March. St Francis was closed in 2010 because of structural issues: a leaking roof, termite infestation and porous walls, which made the building unsafe. Masses have been held at the pastoral centre which was subsequently constructed.
Built in 1903, the church was added to the list of National Heritage sites by the National Trust mid last year. Restoration will be executed in phases and funding support is being promoted by the parish.
A video has been prepared in which Archbishop Jason Gordon calls for support to “restore this beautiful chapel”. He referred to the rich history of Belmont, which has produced contributors to culture and art as well as “presidents and cultural artisans”.
A building committee has been established comprising parish priest Fr Thomas Lawson OP, Douglas James who is chairman of the committee, the project manager Nataki Hypolite, architect Douglas Walker, quantity surveyor Ken Mc Mayo, structural engineer Danielle Steele, accountant Seamus Clarke, parish finance officer Michael Gadjadar, civil engineer Earl Wilson, Carole Smart, and public relations officer for the committee, Jose Nivet.
In an interview on January 15, Nivet said the first phase is expected to begin at the end of March 2021. It will entail the “upper part of the building” which will involve replacement of the roof, replacement of electricals e.g., fans and lights, restoration of the 30 clerestory windows and new frames installed. Nivet said the windows consisted of coloured glass with roundels.
“It is 118-year-old glass so whatever glass we have we are going to be keeping because as a heritage site we have to maintain whatever is there,” he said.
Attention will be given to the walls of the church and removal of Portland cement which was used about 15 years ago. Nivet said, “any foundation work which is minimal will be done.”
Although funds were raised by the parish to proceed with the first phase, which was estimated at TT$4.7 million, fundraising must continue. Nivet said tenders have been submitted for the electrical work and windows inclusive of stained glass. The main tender for the roofing will go out next month.
Following the receipt of tenders, a tender committee with some members from the building committee, will go through them. An approval committee will review and sign off.
Nivet said the Archdiocese is fully informed of every step and have copies of the tenders publicised. “We submitted all documents to the Chancery’s building committee, and we’ve gotten feedback from them,” he added.
Nivet said after phase one the church may be accessible to parishioners. Phase two will progress with other areas of the church.
Donations can be credited to the parish’s account at Republic Bank, Woodbrook branch:510800063201.