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The oldest church in jeopardy*

 

By Lara Pickford Gordon, lpgordon.camsel@rcpos.org

The St Joseph RC parish continues to rally for the Road to Restoration project to do urgently needed work on the ancient church listed on the National Trust’s Heritage Asset Register as a historic site “worthy of notation and preservation”. In 2015, the church celebrated its bicentennial anniversary.

“As a Catholic community and country generally, we have to buy into preserving our historical buildings, while it is a place of worship erected for the Catholic community, the building is of historical value,” said Deacon Jeffrey Supersad of the parish. He added that historic edifices are important for future generations.

The fundraising for the first phase has been going slowly. The church requires 80 per cent of funding in hand before the Archdiocese will sign off for the first phase which has been estimated to cost TT$4M. The aim is to have TT$3M “at least close or above that to start”.

Last August the parish launched the Priest Hill Greens and crowdfunding initiative.  After doing what was necessary to qualify, the online funding campaign started last November with Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding website. This source raised just US$2,800 when more than US$100,000 was the aim. Additional sources of funds from the parish and other sources have not reached the sum needed to begin the first phase. Supersad lamented that the parish had not reached close to its target.

Some activities for 2019 are: a movie premiere, a play, and a dinner with a format similar to Servol’s Poor Man’s dinner.

Masses continue as normal since the structure has not been deemed “unworthy for use”. An engineer has advised the parish of the need to begin work as soon as possible during this dry season. Work however, cannot commence without the necessary funding.

Termites have eaten the wood in some parts of the roof leaving hollow spots. Phase one entails replacement of the roof and internally the timber roof truss (internal framework to support the roof). The guttering will also be addressed.

Deacon Supersad said the materials used in the architecture cannot be changed; the restoration must conform to what was done before “to preserve the historic integrity of it”. The second phase of the project focuses on electricals and stoneworks (masonry). The lime mortar used for the walls has disintegrated due to a combination of cleaning methods and water seepage from the deteriorated guttering and repairs done with Portland cement keeping moisture within the walls of the structure.

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