A spiritual home to thousands of Catholics for 102 years, Sacred Heart Church in Highgate is undergoing a new stage of conservation.
By Robert Hiini
Contractors have been engaged to reframe, re-leadlight and replace three of the heritage listed church’s stained glass windows that Parish Priest, Fr Peter Bianchini, says were “dangerous and literally falling out” of their positions.
The work will be the first stage in a conservation plan that the parish put together in 2004, having received a Lotteries Grant to replace the church’s guttering and repaint its eaves.
Casatelli Trust, the contractor engaged to do the work, is experienced in church conservation, having worked previously on the Catholic Education Office (formerly the Home of the Good Shepherd) and St Patrick’s Basilica in Fremantle.
Eventually, 35 windows in the church will be refurbished or repaired with three of them set to cost $70,000 in total, with another six averaging $10,000 per window.
Marko Bouquey-Moss Piero, a subcontractor engaged on the project says workers were surprised by the extent of the damage to the plaster surrounding the windows.
Water damage had leached out the plaster behind the surface gypsum leaving nothing but sand, making the alcoves very unstable, he said.
Mr Bouquey-Moss and his fellow subcontractors are using an innovative technique to combat this problem, injecting plaster back into the empty spaces in the walls.
Fr Bianchini says that the parish’s subsequent applications for grants have been unsuccessful and that all funds required for conservation will have to be raised by the parish.
A committee has been established, made up of Sacred Heart parishioners, to raise the funds for the extensive work required.
The parish is a popular place for weddings with approximately 80 taking place every year – with nearly as many funerals.
“People who’ve been part of the parish seem to come back here,” says Fr Bianchini, Parish Priest of Sacred Heart for the past four years.
“They see it as their parish or they come back because they consider it their family’s church.”
The church was built in 1906 for the grand sum of £4000 under the supervision of inaugural Parish Priest, Fr Thomas Crowley, who was to continue in that role for 33 years.
The parish took its name from the land it was built on – ‘Alacoque Square’ – so coined by the Most Rev Matthew Gibney, then-Bishop of Perth, after St Margaret Mary Alacoque who introduced the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion.
The Church was designed by Irish born architect, Richard Joseph Dennehy, also responsible for the present Catholic Education Office in Leederville.
Fr Bianchini says that, despite the steep challenge of raising the funds, the conservation of the church is essential for its ongoing use and for future generations.
“Historically and culturally, Sacred Heart is a spiritual centre. This is evident in the people who have been here, moved on but still wish to be associated with the parish.”
Donations to the Sacred Heart Parish heritage fund can be made by calling 9328 3433 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org