WelCom August 2018:
The doors to the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Hill St, Wellington, that have welcomed parishioners, visitors and concert goers for decades, have been closed following a Structural Engineer’s report in July. The experiences of the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes have made it prudent for building owners to reassess their buildings. The Category 1 heritage listed building has been deemed earthquake prone and The Parish Leadership Team chose to close the Cathedral immediately in the interest of safety for parishioners and the public.
Parishioners Support Cathedral Closure
Fr James Lyons and Debbie Matheson for the Cathedral Parish
The announcement on 13 July 2018 that our archdiocesan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart would immediately close shocked and alarmed many. While parishioners had been fore-warned that closure was inevitable, the timing was unexpected.
An engineering report on the status of the Cathedral was sought following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. No significant damage was observed. In 2017, a Detailed Seismic Assessment was commissioned to inform deferred maintenance decisions. An interim report arrived in May this year, indicating a weakness in the roofing structure with the distinct possibility this could put the Cathedral into the earthquake-prone zone. This knowledge was shared with parishioners.
When the full report was received, endorsed by a peer review in early July, we were left in no doubt the Cathedral was an earthquake risk and should not be occupied. Separate meetings of the Parish Finance Committee and Pastoral Council on 12 July, independently recommended immediate closure.
The community has reacted with amazing generosity and support.
The strong relationship with St Mary’s College and Sacred Heart Cathedral Primary School was seen in the spontaneous offer to provide locations for Sunday and weekday Masses. Every effort was made to inform people of the new situation. People rallied to help relocate in time for weekend liturgies. Volunteers appeared to ensure arrivals for Mass were quickly and safely redirected to the new venue.
Though the closure of the cathedral is sad and disturbing, the parish leadership team is seeing it also as an opportunity to unite the parish more closely.
Having embraced the principle of Stewardship in recent years, Sacred Heart parishioners will likely see some fruit for their efforts. A greater sense of ownership and a fuller awareness of how individual talents can assist the common good will contribute greatly to the success of the strengthening project.
We are seeing first hand the meaning of Church as ‘Living Stones’, people together in community. ‘Bricks and Mortar’ are quite secondary!
When it was first realised remedial work was inevitable, a special Funding Committee was formed. This is already active and is a further indicator of the commitment of parishioners to save and secure our 118-year old iconic building, recognised by Historic Places as a national treasure.
The first stage in restoration will be ensuring the safety of the cathedral chapel, foyer and Connolly Hall, which will open them for re-occupation. These areas already meet current earthquake standards but their vicinity to the cathedral require some additional support.
The Cathedral itself could be closed for up to two years, although a definite time-line depends on determining what exactly needs to be done and how to do it.
While the Cathedral is closed, weekday Masses will take place at Sacred Heart Cathedral school in the short term and, Sunday Masses will be celebrated at St Mary’s College Hall, Guildford Terrace.
For further information please contact the Parish Office 04 496-1700.
Photos: Annette Scullion