Prior to the devastating tornado of May 2005 the insurance sum on St Patrick’s Cathedral, for complete and total destruction, was $4.1 million.
This amount would pay for a modern building, with perhaps the same life expectancy as an average city building. A life expectancy measured in decades, not centuries. Limestone and similar options could not be used because the new Cathedral will need to be resistant to the elements, including strong winds, salt and damp air – as well as tornadoes.
In all likelihood, such a building would begin to look shabby after 20 or 30 years. It would become an embarrassment to the whole community, as well as to Catholics. Maintenance would be expensive, extensive and ongoing, and may not be adequate for future needs.
Also, before such a structure could be built, an adequate car park would need to be factored into the equation to satisfy the relevant authorities. This would be an additional cost, not covered by the insurance payout.
Through community consultation in 2005, numerous consultations with parishioners, and throughout the diocese, as well as with others from the community who wished to share their opinions, one thing become very clear: people do not want the kind of building overlooking their city that the insurance could pay for. They do not want a contemporary steel, concrete and glass building. They want a Cathedral that looks like a Cathedral.
That kind of Cathedral will cost significantly more than the insurance from St Patrick’s. Engineering works to accommodate car parking requirements for 134 vehicles will be a major cost.
The wider community of Bunbury, and the surrounding regions, want a Cathedral that will be an icon on the city landscape They want a building built on traditional lines that clearly signals the values of faith and strength for which the original St Patrick’s Cathedral was renowned. They want a building which will be attractive, noble, durable, low maintenance and long lived.
With these requirements in mind, it is impossible to look at the Cathedral rebuilding from a narrow Catholic perspective. What we do now will affect the city and its landscape for hundreds of years to come. Clearly, we have a responsibility to build a Cathedral that the entire community will take to its heart, and appreciate now, and for many generations to come.