Wellington's St Mary of Angels church reopens after $9.5m quake strengthening
After almost four years of strengthening work, St Mary of the Angels in Wellington has reopened.
The 95-year-old Catholic church is stronger, but looks no different – something those involved in the $9.5 million project are proud of.
The church in Boulcott St was closed after Wellington was rocked by the 6.5 magnitude Seddon earthquake in July 2013.
The Category-1 heritage building was officially reopened and blessed on Wednesday by Cardinal John Dew, the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington.
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More than 200 people attended the service where 800 donors and construction firm L T McGuinness was thanked for its efforts to restore the church to its former glory.
The church's structure was found to be between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of new building standards in 2013. It is now as close as possible to 100 per cent of code.
Fundraising is continuing to cover the $1m needed for ancillary works: restoring the garden, reinstatement of the crypt and choir room, and replacement of the carpets.
Parish priest Father Barry Scannell said the reopening was as significant for the church as its first opening was in 1922.
He assured the congregation that if there was an earthquake during the opening they would be OK, and said they would be forgiven for thinking the church looked the same as it always had.
L T McGuinness managing director Brian McGuinness said the opening was a special occasion that construction workers and the Wellington community had been looking forward too.
The church was a "gem" in Wellington, he said.
His employees had disassembled large parts of the church and rebuilt it using techniques that were not even dreamt of when it was designed by Frederick de Jersey Clere.
"I hope he would have approved."
The strengthening had been challenging but epic journey for all involved, he said.
He praised Scannell for his unwavering commitment under trying conditions.
"It was a tough decision for him to close the church and a challenge to raise funds and keep the church together. We owe a great deal of thanks to him."
Cardinal Dew concurred and said it was Scannell's energy and drive that got the church where it was today.
"No-one else had the determination, vision, courage and cheek to enable this to happen."
Scannell believed the church should be a place for all of Wellington to enjoy, and he worked hard to make that happen.
It was fitting that St Mary of the Angels was reopening in time for the church's important Easter ceremonies, Dew said.
He will celebrate the first liturgy (the Mass of the Lord's Supper) on Thursday, and it is anticipated the other Easter services and masses will be well attended, in recognition of the work achieved over the past four years.