People attending Sunday morning Mass in the tent. People attending Sunday morning Mass in the tent.
Carmelite Fr John Chua, parish priest of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, hopes that the restoration works on the 146-year-old church “will be completed by end of this year”.

The process is about “30 percent completed”, he added.

Fr Chua shared this information with CatholicNews on April 13, while giving a tour of the grounds.

Meanwhile, parishioners will continue to attend Masses in a tent in front of the church building. They have been doing so since late June last year, he said.

“It can be a bit inconvenient when it rains, but to shelter parishioners we draw the plastic curtains. But then it’ll be quite stuffy,” he added.
Scaffolding seen inside the Church of Sts Peter and Paul.Scaffolding seen inside the Church of Sts Peter and Paul.

“During Mass, we also try to stop [the restoration] work,” or if there is urgent work to complete, the team keeps the noise level to the minimum, he said.

Restoration works began last November. According to Fr Chua, his team aims to restore the church to its original “neo-Gothic style”.

The restoration team comprises 34 people including two stained glass experts from Milan, Italy.
 
The team sometimes works “till 7 pm, and sometimes till 9 pm depending on the urgency of the work”, said Fr Chua.
The Carmelite priest also said that the team has also been liaising with the Preservation of Sites & Monuments authority, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and the Building and Construction Authority throughout the project.

Mr Fasoli Roberto helping to restore the stained glass of the church.Mr Fasoli Roberto helping to restore the stained glass of the church.Among the myriad of things to be restored are:
  • A “complete change in the roof”, which was previously in bad shape
  • Re-varnishing of pews
  • Restoration of five lance-shaped stained glass panels as well as two rose windows at the right and left sides of the church
  • Replacing of the windows and the spiral staircase
  • Reinstating the Peranakan floor tiles
  • Relocating the baptismal font to its original place near the left entrance of the church
  • Relocating the grotto
  • Reinstating the choir area to the right transept
  • There will also be a new front altar, an electronic pipe organ flown from the US and air-conditioning.
The restoration will cost $8 million “but it could be higher” if there are delays, said Fr Chua.

During one Sunday morning Mass there, CatholicNews saw some parishioners wearing sunglasses while others were fanning themselves.

“It’s hot under the tent but I know Father has done his best to make us feel comfortable. It’s only for a while,” said an 82-year-old female parishioner who declined to be named.
A photo of the sanctuary and high altar in the early 1970s. A photo of the sanctuary and high altar in the early 1970s.

“Of late, the weather has been quite challenging so it’s hard to concentrate during Mass. The sun’s glare can be very strong,” said Ms Stella Lau, 45.

One parishioner also suggested installing air-conditioner units in the tent.

By Lorna O’Hara
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