A total of $13,500 has been pledged to the restoration or replacement of the statue of Mary, Our Lady of Laventille, at the Our Lady of Fatima RC Church on Picton Road by members of the People’s National Movement.
On September 9, the day after the RC church celebrated Mary’s birthday, lightning struck the statue which broke off the head.
This was the second time a statue of Mary was struck by lightning on that spot. In 1938 the first statue was destroyed. Nine years later, on May 18, 1947, Archbishop Finbar Ryan blessed the new statue, declaring it a national Marian Shrine – a shine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and it was erected on top of the church.
Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds, Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland, La Horquetta/Talparo MP Foster Cummings, Senator Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing and Arima Mayor Cagney Casimire all pledged $2,500 to help with the restoration. Satesh Ojah-Maharaj who was screened for D’abadie/O’mera MP, pledged $1,000.
Hinds, Scotland, Cummings and Lezama-Lee Sing visited the church on Friday.
“It is a heritage site. It is important to the Catholic Church, to Port of Spain. We thought it was important to be part of the restoration of the statue,” Scotland said.
A team from the Property Building and Restoration Unit of the church, the National Trust and Citizens for Conservation visited the church to assess the damage on September 10.
President Citizens for Conservation Rudylynn De Four Roberts said until rest of the statue is removed from its base, it is difficult to determine whether it should be repaired or replaced.
“We have to salvage all the pieces, tag them and store them and make a space in the church’s storehouse. Someone has been assigned to collect it for safekeeping,” she said.
The investigators used a drone to photograph the statue. She said the damage is significant.
Until the statue is taken down, the investigators would not be able to determine if the statue had a ground wire or lightning rod to protect it.
A ground wire is an electrical wire that gives excess electrical charges a safe place to be discharged. A lightning rod is a rod fixed next to a tall structure to divert lightning.
“We will explore repairing it, and if it cannot be repaired, we would have to look to replace it,” she said.
Though Our Lady of Fatima is a heritage site, responsibility for removal and repairs lies solely on the church. She recommended the church have fund-raising drives.
“It is an expensive exercise. Taking it down would be a major production. They would have to get a crane. It is in parts. The statue was made in parts and assembled on top of the belfry. It can come back down in parts,” she said.
Artist Judy Sheppard has repaired statues such as angel wings for the church before but not something this size.
“We have to wait and see if it is something she can do. We have restoration contractors in Trinidad. It depends on what we find when we take it down. It is hard to give a diagnosis if it is not up close to see what we are talking about.”
Fr Robert Christo, Vicar of Communications, told Newsday a report is being prepared. The Archdiocese will not know if the statue will be restored, repaired or replaced until the report is completed.
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