By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The windows at the St Francis of Assisi RC Pastoral Centre, Belmont, were repaired but it is yet to be decided what will be done with the damaged statues of Mary and St Bernadette.
On April 23, two men entered the church’s compound and one of them damaged windows of the Centre and the statues located in the grotto. They were held by the Belmont Police. Security on the compound has since been “stepped up”.
Linda Stephen, spokesperson, and member of the St Francis RC fundraising restoration committee said workers conducted repairs to the windows over three days. Two persons have volunteered to attempt repairs to the statues. One of them is assessing the damage. If they cannot be fixed, she said new ones could cost about $7,000.
Stephen said the statues hold sentimental value for the Belmont families that purchased them. “The parish has financial struggles and would not be able to purchase new statues…the people of St Francis have as their primary goal, the restoration of their church.”
The parishioners are planning a cake sale on Saturday, May 28 before and after the 5 p.m. Mass to defer the unexpected costs incurred from the vandalism. Stephen said, “donations of items and support of any kind are most welcome.”
On May 25, this year St Francis RC Belmont will be 120 years old. It is the first listed national heritage site in Belmont. Restoration on the church began at the end of last year to deal with various structural issues. The parish held a fundraising concert ‘The Belmont Benefit Gala’ on Palm Sunday, April 10 at the National Academy for the Performing Arts towards the restoration.
The church was closed December 2010 after it was reported unsafe. Parishioners were accommodated at the Holy Name Convent Chapel, Queen’s Park East, while the pastoral centre was constructed. The pastoral centre is now at the heart of all parish activities, with Masses being celebrated there for about eight years.
“While the vandalism left the parishioners a bit shaken, it has not shaken their faith and there’s been overwhelming support of well-wishers from the Catholic community, which is encouraging them and helping them through this. God can and does bring good out of everything,” said Stephen.