St. Francis Parish, Belmont
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St Francis Parish – No Room!

St Francis Parish – No Room!

St Francis Parish - No Room!

I have heard it said over and over again that the events of the Holy Bible are not meant to be interpreted as just mere historical events, but are applicable to our daily lives.  I am from the parish of St. Francis, Belmont, of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad.  The church building as many of the parishioners know it, was built in 1902.  It is one of the beautiful landmarks in Port of Spain.

The parish of St. Francis, Belmont have had an unfortunate turn of events recently resulting in the dwindling of the parish attendance at Mass and more importantly, Mass being celebrated out in the driveway of the church yard – under three tents.

About three years ago, the former parish priest of St. Francis was advised based on a chain of events that occurred, that if there were serious earthquake activities, the church structure would be unreliable.  In the interest and safety of fellow parishioners, a decision was taken to discontinue the use of the building. So for the past three years, St. Francis Belmont has been celebrating the Holy Eucharist under three tents in the church yard.  It is instructive to note that during that time of non-use, the church that was deemed unsafe was turned into a warehouse for the storage of items from the Cathedral.  All this time, renovations had not yet started, however the cost of renovations kept escalating and the parish remained in the dark as to when work would begin and what exactly would be the scope of work.

Fr. Thomas Lawson was appointed as parish priest of St. Francis Belmont in December 2012, and wasted no time in getting things moving to raise the much needed funds to repair the church.  One of the initiatives that was taken under Fr. Lawson was the construction of a multi-purpose facility.  This would become a very important building since among other things, it would allow the parishioners to safely celebrate the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Catholic Faith – while work was being done on the church.  The funding for the construction of this building would not be borne by the St. Francis faithful, nor by the Archdiocese of Port Of Spain since outside funding has been secured.

In a letter addressed to Fr. Lawson dated October 21, 2013, the Chairman of the Archdiocesan Building Commission said, “A proper geotechnical investigation was never completed and therefore no scientific evidence existed to support the closure of the church – but there was much conjuncture.”  In this letter, the Chairman of the Archdiocesan Building Commission continues, “When it was discovered, a couple months ago, that there was no scientific basis for the closure of the church, a geotechnical investigation of the site on which the church sits was commissioned.”  He continued, “The report on this investigation gives the assurance that ‘the sub-soils at the site are not potentially liquefiable’ so the threat of collapse from ‘liquefaction and consequent subsidence of the sub-soil’ is no longer a concern.

Since the building was structurally sound, Fr. Lawson and the parishioners began focusing on celebrating the Holy Eucharist in the church building for Christmas.  This intention was communicated to the Chairman of the Archdiocesan Building Commission in a letter dated October 24th, 2013.  In this letter, Fr. Lawson also made a  request for the relocation of the items that were stored in the church.

In anticipation of celebrating Christmas Mass in the church building, outside assistance was sort to clean the church. The services involved in the cleanup exercises were all volunteered. Up to that point there was no communication from the Archdiocesan Building Committee.

With as little more than a week to go for Christmas and after much time and effort was spent ridding the church of pigeons and the mounds of mess they created, and generally cleaning and power-washing the church, all in preparation for Christmas – not to mention the great joy and expectation that once again filled the hearts of the parishioners, the Archdiocesan Building Committee saw it fit to have scaffoldings brought in and erected all through the interior of the church, without first consulting Fr. Lawson.  So all the work that was done in the church to celebrate Christmas liturgy there, was all in vain and plans of celebrating Holy Mass in the church look quite dim. No room in the inn.

Whether the parishioners of St. Francis, Belmont will get their Christmas dream come true, to once again experience the joy of celebrating the Holy Mass in their parish church building for Christmas – no one but GOD really knows at this stage. There are however a number of very broken and hurt people in Belmont in dire need of your prayers and your support and answers to some of their questions:

  1. Why was a proper scientific assessment never done until almost three years later?
  2. Shouldn’t the negative impact of all that has happened been considered to be of paramount importance in moving forward by the Chairman of the Archdiocesan Building Commission?
  3. The Eucharist is undoubtedly The Source and Summit of the Catholic Faith. In moving forward with repairs, shouldn’t measures be first put in place to ensure that this most important celebration of the Body of Christ continues?
  4. Shouldn’t measures be put in place to have the multi-purpose facility erected? After all, it can be completed in under 6 month and is of no cost to the parishioners nor the Archdiocese?

May the parishioners of Belmont know and remember that EMMANUEL – God With Us – is in fact with them as they go through their trials, and with GOD on your side, who can stand against you?

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