Fundraiser launched to reinforce basilica

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by Claire Allison

Timaru’s Holy Family Parish has launched a major fundraising project to earthquake-strengthen the Sacred Heart Basilica and, in conjunction with Roncalli College, build a covered sports facility on the Ashby Courts area behind the church.

The work on the basilica is estimated to cost $2.4million, which includes some deferred maintenance work.

Parish chairman Gary Shand said the local contribution would be $1.6million.

The multipurpose parish centre and sporting complex, which will replace the ageing parish centre in the former squash courts at the end of Napier St, is expected to cost about $2million.

The school and the parish have already earmarked $500,000 each for that project, leaving $1million to find.

It is the most significant fundraising effort for the parish in recent years, and the first since the Sacred Heart and St Thomas’ parishes amalgamated to form the Holy Family Parish in 2011.

Mr Shand said the basilica had been inspected by engineers and, while it had not suffered any damage in the Canterbury earthquakes, earthquake-strengthening to bring the building up to 34.5% of the building code had been recommended to ensure the safety of parishioners.

“The diocese will fund it to a certain extent, but we have to raise, for the basilica, $1.6million. We will ask the parish, and then the wider community.”

Mr Shand said he expected work would have to wait until warmer, more settled weather. The basilica would have to be closed while it was carried out, during which services would be held at St Thomas’ Church.

A restoration project carried out in the 1990s had not included earthquake-strengthening work, he said.

Waimate’s St Patrick’s Basilica had been assessed at 60% to 70% of the code, but other Catholic churches in South Canterbury would have to go through this same process.

Roncalli College principal Chris Comeau said the Ashby Courts project would provide the school with another covered sports area in addition to the already too-small gymnasium.

It would also serve the wider community, including primary schools and sports clubs, as it would include an all-weather turf and meeting rooms.

The Christchurch Diocese and Ministry of Education had granted all the necessary consents, and he hoped to be able to make a start on the project by the end of this year, Mr Comeau said.

Mr Shand said the existing parish centre would be decommissioned, and the new facility would be much more user-friendly.

Bishop of Christchurch Paul Martin, in Timaru at the weekend for the official launch of the fundraising effort, said the funding formula was similar for all parishes – a third from the diocese, a third from the community and a third from selling assets.

“It has been a common-goal approach.

“If more is raised than is required from one parish, it will go towards other parishes that have lost their churches.

“Normally, parishes look after themselves, but if you have a small parish needing $10million for a new church

“People have been very generous, both for their own parish and helping others.”