It was a joyful welcome for long-standing faithful parishioners of the Sacred Heart RC Church reopening January 1, Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Jason Gordon. Listed on the National Trust Heritage Asset Inventory, it will be 140 years this year.
The church was inaccessible following the commencement of restoration in early 2021. According to a post on the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Facebook Page updating parishioners, substantial scraping and resurfacing of the inner walls were completed.
Some smoothing of the arches was done, excluding those around the stained-glass windows which were “in good order”. The arch before the Sacred Heart Grotto will receive attention early this year.
Work on the lower part of the northern wall of the nave was not completed because of a nationwide shortage of lime mortar. “This, along with a few broken pews, had left the church in an unavoidable state of untidiness. We will have to wait until later in the new year to see the painted walls and cleaned stained-glass windows. We have done our best to make our church tidy and welcoming for the reopening. We were happy we were able to polish the sanctuary floors.”
A structural concern was discovered by the Archdiocesan engineering team as a spire on the northern side of the church has begun rotting, “probably caused by rainwater seeping into its wooden foundation”.
The update indicated fundraising will be done to improve the electrical and audio system at the church. Preparatory work for these has been estimated to cost “at least TT$20,000” inclusive of layout plans and scaffold.
Maintaining the ancient church is expensive, and as a result a fundraising committee for the Sacred Heart building has become an imperative. The post stated in spite of the challenges, the Promises of the Sacred Heart still hold true.
“This is our spiritual home and a refuge as we negotiate troubling times.”
The Church of the Sacred Heart was blessed and opened by Archbishop Louis Joachim Gonin (1863–1899) on December 3, 1822, Advent Sunday.
The Catholic Directory 1914 reports, “Its beautiful paintings of the Stations of the Cross are by Westlake, A.R.A [Associate of the Royal Academy] and cost $960” (Source: Archdiocesan Archives).