Basilica to reopen early next month

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by Chris Tobin

It will be a big day for Timaru and South Canterbury’s Catholic community on Sunday, November 8.

The Sacred Heart Basilica which has been closed for a $3.9million earthquake strengthening project since January 2019 will be opened for Mass, the confirmation of 31 children and the presentation of Papal Awards to four parishioners of Timaru’s Holy Family parish.

Once this is completed, Bishop Martin will then bless and open the new parish centre and Roncalli College’s sports complex which have been incorporated into one building near the basilica.

“It made sense for the bishop to come and do it all in the one day,” parish priest Fr Chris Friel said.

While strengthening work had been completed one matter that still had to be sorted was hailstone damage to the basilica’s copper dome.

“It’s complicated and still hasn’t been resolved by the insurance company though we’re reopening because we can.

“The copper was damaged on the south side but it hasn’t made the dome unsafe side is perfect.

“We need to get back into our beautiful basilica.”

Although not sustaining any serious damage during the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes, the basilica had to be strengthened to meet the mandated 34% of the New Zealand Building Code standards required for earthquake-prone buildings.

“It’s all mainly gone into strengthening the towers,” Fr Friel said.

Steel and concrete have been used to reinforce the basilica’s nave, transepts and towers.

“The organ pipes were taken out and they’ve been returned and attended to. We’ve got a new heating system and the sound system has been renewed.”

Designed by the prominent New Zealand architect Francis Petre and completed in 1911, the Sacred Heart Basilica has a registered historic place rating of category 1 and contained what are considered some of the finest stained glass windows in the country.

It is also considered among the most noteworthy examples of ecclesiastical architecture in New Zealand.

The Holy Family parish centre was formerly located in a Napier St building which was sold to the local Islamic community.

The new $2.4 million centre was developed jointly by the college and parish centre with Roncalli having sports facilities at the southern end of the building.

The parishioners who will receive Papal Awards are Jim Anderson, Bernard Feely, Teresa Scott and Val Ponsonby.

During the earthquake strengthening project, Masses have been held at the Holy Family parish’s St Thomas The Apostle Church in Wai-iti Rd.

Opening too…Holy Family parish centre and combined Roncalli College sports facility will be blessed and opened by Bishop Martin. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN
Ready to ring…The basilica’s one of seven bells which have been reinforced with steel. PHOTO: SUPPLIED