$5.7 million to restore Belmont Church | Local Features

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Irish-born Father Thomas Lawson, parish priest at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Belmont, said he was ‘very supportive of the decision’ to restore the historic building, at a cost of approximately $5.7 million for the first phase.

Work began last September and should be completed in May.

Lawson said the church is a sacred pillar in the Belmont area, which is famous for its Rada community, late masman Wayne Berkley and calypso legend David Rudder.

The church will turn 120 in May but for the past ten years the historic building has been mothballed and no longer in use.

During Thursday’s media launch of St Francis of Assisi RC Church as a Belmont Heritage Site, Jose Nivet, Chairman of the Belmont Heritage Benefit Gala, appealed to private and public sponsors and concerned citizens to help at the restoration of the church, at 115 Belmont Circular Route.

Also leading the project are creative director and former broadcaster Dennis McComie, Linda Aboud-Stephen and event coordinator and Belmont resident Linda Mentor.

Nivet said a fundraising gala is scheduled for April 10 at the National Academy of the Performing Arts (NAPA), Keate Street, Port of Spain.

In the meantime, Father Lawson is leading services in the Pastoral Center, as the church is cordoned off with galvanizing and scaffolding has been placed at its entrance.

Designated works will include roof replacement; replacement of electrical appliances, including fans and lights; restoration of the 30 clerestory windows (near the roof line) and installation of new frames. Minor structural work will also be carried out.

St Francis was closed to the public in 2010 as structural problems made the building unsafe.

The church was completed in May 1902 in memory of the late Father Coventry OP and dedicated by the parish priest at the time, Father Vincent Sutherland OP, to the founder of the Franciscan Order of St. Francis of Assisi.

gala benefit

“The first phase started in 2021. It’s about $5.7 million. We hope to complete by May 2022,” Nivet said. “The windows were sent to Colombia. The Stations of the Cross have been dismantled, they will be cleaned and put back in place.

Moving on to the gala, he added: “We will have the National Philharmonic Orchestra, we will have Orange Sky and other artists. We would like to thank the Ministry of Tourism.

“It’s the only listed heritage site in Belmont,” McComie said. “There are about 47 national built heritage sites. Heritage is everyone’s business. It’s about what we believe about ourselves. Heritage is recognizing our history. Be ambassadors.

“We are grateful to have Father Lawson with us,” Mentor said. “He is passionate about catering. We had a reception at Queen’s Hall and he fit in well. We have plans to build a memorial garden. It will be “L” shaped, winding around the back of the church. We must follow National Trust guidelines.

While passing out St. Francis of Assisi prayer cards with doves perched on them, Aboud-Stephen said, “We need prayers right now. We need peace and love. We want to appeal to people to help us raise funds for our church. We thank everyone for their generosity. »

“The people of Belmont are suffering”

In a phone interview on Thursday, Lawson, 74, who previously served in the Petit Valley and St Joseph communities, said, “It has been a source of grace for so many. The people of Belmont are heartbroken and hopeful that it will regain its magnificence. It is an expression of their faith. They cannot occupy it at the moment because of the state it is in. A lot of people born in Belmont live out west…they support the restoration of the church. It is a place of worship. They love it.

And the principal of Fatima College, Father Gregory Augustine, said: “I rejoice. It is an excellent initiative. St Francis was closed for a while. It’s a critical day. We want to restore the house of the Lord to its former glory.

How to support

Anyone interested in financially supporting the restoration of St Francis of Assisi RC can do so by crediting the parish’s account at Republic Bank, Woodbrook #510800063201.

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