New St Venera parish church will be consecrated today

The final plan of the new church, which is being consecrated today

The final plan of the new church, which is being consecrated today

The new parish church of St Venera, run by the Carmelite Fathers, is being consecrated today at 6 p.m. by the Archbishop, Mgr Joseph Mercieca. The church has taken almost 40 years to complete, work on it having started on April 19, 1956.

The Carmelite had come to St Venera in 1912; eventually the locality became a parish and because of its growing population it soon became obvious that the old parish church was too small to cater for their pastoral needs and they had to think of building a bigger church.

In 1942 two sisters, Beatrice and Eleonara Apap, bequeathed to the Carmelite Fathers a house at 388, St Joseph High Road, St Venera, and its adjoining farmhouse, known as Chateau Lonz.

In 1947 the Carmelites decided to start using a large store inside Chateau Lonz as a temporary church, which is now the parish centre. However, the population of St Venera continued to grow.

The decision was taken to build a new church in St Joseph High Road, after a plot of land facing the Apap Institute became available. This had been bequeathed by the Apap sisters to the Dominican Sisters, which was then exchanged with other property belonging to the Carmelite Fathers and the Zammit brothers (of Zammit Gardens).

Architect Joseph Damato was commissioned to design the church in Romanesque style with five altars. Work started on April 19, 1956. Much rock-cutting and removal of earth was involved. By June, 1967, the roofing and the balcony were completed. Works had to stop for a time because funds ran out, but were resumed under the parish priest, Fr Francis Grech, O.Carm., and eventually the crypt started being used as a temporary church with effect from March 19, 1969.

In the meantime, Architect D'Amato had died, and Architect Louis A.Naudi was commissioned to supervise the work. He was later joined by Architect Godwin Aquilina. The church's plan had to be redesigned (by Guzeppi Galea of Rabat) in view of the liturgical changes decreed by Vatican Council II.

The blessing and laying of the foundation stone, by the Carmelite Provincial Fr Leonard Mahoney, took place on October 6, 1990. After that, work continued apace and already on July 25, 1994, on the occasion of the feast of St Venera, the children's Mass was held in the new church.

On that occasion, the twins Francis and Oliver Fkishburn, who live in "Santa Venera House" in Eckington, England, and who have relatives living in St Venera, received their First Holy Communion. Afterwards, the old statue of St Venera was carried in procession.

Meanwhile, work on the church progressed considerably, and on September 14, 2003, the installation of the new parish priest, Fr Alexander Scerri, O.Carm., took place in the new church.

On March 7 this year, a committee was set up to help the Carmelite Fathers in the celebrations marking the inauguration and blessing of the new church, chaired by the parish priest, Fr Scerri. The members include Fr Jurgen Cucciardi, O.Carm, and Lino Bartolo, Mario Coleiro, Eman Micallef, Edmond Sciberras, Stanley Spiteri, Josette Zerafa and myself as secretary.

All are invited to the new parish church's consecration ceremony this evening.

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