The Sower Article June 2013

Posted on: Monday, 17 June 2013 at 1:34:55 PM

Plans are well on the way for the restoration, conservation and enhancement of the Cathedral and its precinct. They have developed slowly but surely over eighteen months.

Where did it all begin?

CathedralFor some years the Diocese has been unsuccessful in securing Heritage funding to replace the Cathedral roof. Seeing precedents for direct State and Federal financial

support Bishop Justin asked the question “Is it time to think bigger?” This architectural gem, as the community knows and as many tourist observe, was growing tired and needing maintenance and conservation.

Various people joined Bishop Justin to consider all this. A committee of  twelve people came together in mid 2010. A Consultant from Perth, Mr. John Willett, who was involved in the Perth’s St Mary’s Cathedral project, was engaged. He assisted the Committee in clarifying the objectives of the overall plan.

The Diocese contracted John Taylor, the famous West Australian Heritage Architect, who has a vast knowledge of and love for Monsignor Hawes’ architecture. As the architect of the conservation of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church in Mullewa he won a UNESCO award for it. John drew up detailed plans and costings for work needed on the exterior and interior of the Cathedral.

For over a year now Mr. Jim Murphy has also been contracted part-time as a Consultant. Jim, who lives in Perth, has had previous experience in building projects and fund raising.

The roof will be renewed with materials Monsignor Hawes had planned – Spanish tiles and metal dome. Many interior repairs are to include flooring, painting, new electrical wiring, and cables for sound. The stain glass windows are in dire need of maintenance and cannot be delayed much longer.

Some modifications for the liturgy are also in the plans.

Sr. Kerry Willison, the Liturgist who oversaw the St Mary’s Cathedral liturgical design and furnishings, was invited to visit the Cathedral and offer her professional advice in this area.

The Committee discussed the opportunity of relocating the organ. Bishop Justin held a meeting with John Larner (organ builder), Jacinta Jakovcevic (St Mary’s Cathedral Organist), Fr. Robert Cross, Keith Jones (Engineer involved with original installation) and John Taylor who concurred that it would be possible to relocate it to the choir loft without any detriment to the organ and the quality of sound.

Artist sketch 

Plans include a Heritage Centre in the grounds to house and display historical and religious memorabilia presently in the crypt and Bishops House.

Provision will be made in the Centre for refreshments and toilet facilities for local people as well as the numerous tourists and visitors to the Cathedral.

The surrounding grounds require a lot of work to help enhance the Cathedral and the Heritage Centre. Extensive landscaping, to include terracing and a small botanical garden of local flora, will bring a natural beauty to the whole precinct.

Once completed, lighting is also planned to display the Cathedral’s enchanting beauty by night.

Public opinion was sought from both Parishioners and the wider community and the ensuing  overwhelming support gave the Bishop and the Committee confidence to proceed.

In February this year submissions were made to both the State and Federal Government for funds. A substantial amount will also be required to be raised. Some people have already offered help to promote and fundraise for this project.

Bishop Justin believes that when asked many others will also come forward.

While this is an exciting project it will require a lot of work. When Bishop Justin was asked if it could be achieved he commented, “If Monsignor Hawes and the Bishop and Community in the early nineteen hundreds could produce such an architectural icon in difficult times, then surely we can complete and enhance it in our day. There are some difficult situations and circumstances we face, however there are many opportunities as well and now is the time to go ahead”. Bishop Justin has also made this appeal to everyone around the Diocese “I ask you to join with me in prayer over these weeks and months so that this vision may become a reality, not only for Geraldton, but for the whole Diocese”. 

Cathedral Project sketch overview

St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Cathedral Avenue, Geraldton
Restoration, Conservation and Enhancement
Proposed Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre

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