After four years of planning and construction work, the new St Luke’s church in Flat Bush in east Auckland is to be officially blessed and opened on May 1.
But St Luke’s parish priest Fr Craig Dunford hopes to have Sunday Masses in the church for a couple of weeks before that, “just to have a bit of a test run, so to speak”.
This includes making sure all the audiovisual equipment is working ahead of the opening, he said. Fr Dunford had hoped to have parish liturgies held in the church at Easter, “but unfortunately, that has been moved now at least a week or two. So, once we get sign-off from the [Auckland] Council, we will be able to have Masses in here”.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn and auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen will bless the new church at the opening. Among those invited are representatives from nearby Anglican and Buddhist communities.
When NZ Catholic visited St Luke’s in mid-March, the church was a hive of activity, with work being done on the interior fit-out, the foyer and exterior aspects, such as water features and driveways.
The stained glass windows behind the sanctuary and above the foyer are stunning. Depicting the Trinity and Our Lady respectively, they were created by David Gianotti and Michael Pervan.
When asked if the new church project had been a smooth journey, Fr Dunford laughed, and said, “I don’t think building anything is a smooth journey — in the middle of Covid-19 as well, on top of it”.
“But to be honest,” he said, “it has not been as difficult as I anticipated, considering the environment we are living in. We were able to work through all alert levels, except where we locked down for level 4. We had to shut down the site. But during levels 2 and 3 we were able to still operate, and still continue the building with some limited restrictions. So there have been a few hiccups along the way, but we have worked through those, and they are normal sort of things that would go wrong in a building.”
All told, he is “delighted the way the whole thing has come together”.
“It is a beautiful building, a building that is really sacred, and it feels sacred,” Fr Dunford said.
He noted that holy items such as blessed medals, rosaries and holy pictures had been placed under the floor last year.
“It is a building that all of our community are going to be proud of and enjoy,” he added. Having the new church will be especially beneficial for the adjacent Sancta Maria Primary School, which is likely to use the building a lot. Sancta Maria Catholic College is on the same overall site.
Fr Dunford appreciates having been able to use the college hall for Sunday Masses, however, with the new church, one thing he won’t miss is having to set up the hall for Mass every week.
“I’ve spent four years setting out chairs, dragging altars . . . I’ve done both my shoulders in. The body is not as young as it used to be,” he laughed.
While he is looking forward to the opening, Fr Dunford admits to feeling “a little bit tired, if I am honest with you”.
“There have been a lot of meetings, a lot of organisational planning and decision-making. But I am really pleased with where we are. I am excited and a bit relieved for it only being another month.”
While the church will be officially opened in a few weeks, the fundraising task will continue. The building costs $10.8million and the parish is still looking to raise $2.5-2.6million. Fr Dunford said the annual fundraising goal set last year was $150,000 and they are not far off that at present, which is not bad considering Covid interruptions.
But the parish is seeking donations to pay for various items in the church and adjacent rooms. Fr Dunford said getting donors to help with the pews and floor tiles, especially, would be greatly appreciated. There will be 64 pews in the church, and a gift of $6000 is the cost of a pew. The church will also have 1135 square metres of floor — and a gift of $100 is the cost of a floor tile.
People wishing to donate can visit www.flatbushcatholicgiving.org/ donate/ Tax receipts can be issued and donors have the option of being recognised in a book of record.