Fundraiser planned for Belmont’s St Francis of Assisi Church

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

St Francis RC Church restoration committee members (from left) Dennis McCommie, Linda Mentor, Linda Stephen and Jose Nivet at the launch of the Gala Belmont Heritage Benefit to raise funds for the church in Belmont on April 10th (Palm Sunday). – SUREASH CHOLAI

TWO months before the St Francis of Assisi RC Church, Circular Road Belmont, marks its 120th anniversary, a committee has launched a fundraising Gala Belmont Heritage Benefit to have phase one of the restoration completed by May.

The church has not been used for over ten years because of disrepair in and around it. The CatholicTT website said the building was closed in 2010 because of structural issues: a leaking roof, termite infestation and porous walls which made it unsafe.

The church was added to the list of National Heritage sites by the National Trust in 2020.

Designed by Irish architect George Coppinger Ashlin, the church was built in one year –1903. Ashlin was involved in the unique design of the Archbishop’s residence at Queen’s Park West.

For the restoration, minimal work will be done on the foundation of the church. Attention will be on the ceiling and upper part of the building. The roof, fans, lights and other electrical will be replaced. The 119-year-old stained glass windows with roundels will be preserved and new window frames installed. Portland cement on the walls of the church will be removed.

During a news conference on Thursday, at the pastoral centre on the church’s compound, committee member Jose Nivet and creative director Dennis McComie promised the event will be packed with entertaining performances.

The first phase of restoration work cost $5.7 million.

McComie said, “If we stop restoration works at the end of (the) phase one contract, we don’t know when we will restart, because it took us ten years to get to phase one. This is why we decided to go ahead with phase two.”

Phase two will cost approximately $5 million.

Phase one of the restoration started in September 2021 and Nivet hopes phase two will start by July.

McComie called on both private- and public-sector organisations to partner with the committee and invest in preserving a vital part of Belmont’s heritage.

“We want everyone on board, we are saying no to nobody. And it’s not only money we want, but we also want your will, we want your co-operation, we want your support.”

McComie said the completion of the project will continue to add to the significance of TT’s culture.

“Heritage is our culture, which is everything – our food, the taste, our attitude, our passion, empathy, support and respect. Heritage is recognising our humanity, our community, So we don’t just want you to help us with funds to rebuild the church. We want you to be ambassadors for these ideas so that there will be an open discussion on what heritage means to each person.”

Donations can be made through the parish’s Republic Bank account, Woodbrook branch 510800063201.