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Sacred Heart repairs affected by pandemic, war

Repairs are currently underway at the Sacred Heart RC church, Richmond  Street, Port of Spain. The project is estimated to last about five years and current estimates put costs at $2 million. With scaffold erected for the work, sections are cordoned off and consequently reduced seating is available.

Vicar General/Cathedral Administrator Fr Martin Sirju said new pews are to be built. He said the work to be undertaken includes fixing leaks in the roof, pigeon-proofing, and repainting the walls. He disclosed structural damage was “revealing itself bit by bit” and fixing would be very costly.

The damage was the result of age, rain, earthquakes, “regular issues of historic buildings” he said. “Lack of money” stymied moderate to serious repairs.

Fr Sirju said an improved sound system and installation of ceiling fans will be new features.

Collections for the church have diminished during the pandemic and space has reduced because of the renovations. “We used to have 125–150 persons on weekend but it has dropped to about 40–45. The last Sunday (June 19) I was there, we got 70”, said Fr Sirju.

In the 2021–2022 Budget, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced a 150 per cent tax allowance of up to $1 million on corporate sponsorship of heritage properties under the oversight of the National Trust. Catholic churches: Sacred Heart, Holy Rosary, St Joseph, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception are listed heritage sites.

The Archbishop’s Appeal has been lobbying donations through the tax allowance in its ‘Save Our Sacred Heritage’ campaign. “Businesses on Richmond Street have been written but the response is slow”, Fr Sirju said. He attributed this to a combination of the effects of the pandemic and now the economic challenges from the war in Ukraine.

Sacred Heart RC is 140 years old this year. It was blessed and opened by Archbishop Louis Joachim Gonin on December 3, 1822, Advent Sunday. —LPG