Monday, July 18, 2011

A New Chancery for Johannesburg Archdiocese

 Cathedral of Christ the King, Johannesburg  
 Here's an interior picture of our Cathedral in Johannesburg dedicated the Christ the King.  It was dedicated in 1960 and has  very fine stained glass and an excellent organ.  It is situated on the edge of Hillbrow, a high density housing suburb that was very much a centre for newcomers to Johannesburg from the continent of Europe.  After the demise of apartheid the area became an area of inner city decay with newcomers from other countries in Africa.  Now it has turned the corner and is fast renewing itself but many problems remain.  It is the perfect place for a Cathedral Parish as there is a huge amount of outreach to the surrounding area.

The Archdiocese decided that the Chancery, a ramshackle collection of buildings and halls, some of which are heritage protected, should be consolidated and refurbished and a new Chancery built.  This is what was stated at the Diocesan AGM in May last year:

Mr Richard Waller of TPSP Architects presented the conceptual plans. There will be three components to the project – upgrade of the Moth Hall on the west; upgrade of the existing halls including the one presently used as the chancery and the building of the new chancery.

The old Moth Hall will house the soup kitchen and interview or consulting rooms. The halls are art deco heritage buildings. They were built in 1934 as a factory which at one time housed a Pepsi bottling plant. They will be sensitively refurbished to meet the needs of the Cathedral parish and the Archdiocese. The new chancery will be built on the terrace above the halls to the east of the priests’ house. It will be a 2,000m2 3-story building with basement parking. It will have balconies and arcades on the north and south. The space between the Chancery, Cathedral and the halls will be a tranquil courtyard in keeping with a spiritual place of prayer. The parking lot will be treed (sic). The chancery will cost R30m and the money will be raised by parishes.  

‘R30m is a lot of money’

Mr Charles Rowlinson, of the AFC presented the funding target. Parishes will have an obligation to raise 4 times their 2009 levy within 2 years or, if their levy then was above R100,000, they will be required to contribute 5 times the amount.
In a subsequent letter to every parish priest, PFC and PPC chairperson Archbishop Buti Tlhagale admits to wondering ‘if we have made the right decision in these difficult economic times, but feel that if it was not me then someone sometime in the future would have had to make the decision to upgrade the very old, present make-shift Chancery.’ He also asks each parish to sign a commitment to raise their target and urges that a dedicated fundraising team be appointed in each parish.

There are various Diocesan Fund Raising Schemes aimed at parishioners, the details of which I am not going to go into.  We get feed back occasionally saying how wonderfully the fund raising is going and the building is going up anyway so I gather the Archdiocese knows what it is doing financially.

I can understand that there is a need to improve the existing facilities.  My own Parish spent in excess of R500 000 to provide consulting rooms for the medics who supplement our Soup Kitchen with medical advice and the kitchen was also upgraded and we didn't get much for the money!

What I can't understand is the need to spend so much money on what is effectively new offices when the Cathedral is surrounded by a vast number of buildings that are crying out to be bought and refurbished as part of the Inner City Improvement Scheme.

Parishes will presumably respond with various degrees of enthusiasm but as you can see the laity are expected to be acquiescent and pay without a murmur.

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