Norfolk’s Basilica of St. Mary’s structure decaying

Posted at 10:21 AM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-20 22:08:42-04

Norfolk, Va. - It's one of the nation's most historic churches and it's the only African-American basilica in the country.

Sunday, the Basilica of Saint Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception had its Holy Door of Mercy designation.

Diocese of Richmond Bishop Francis X DiLorenzo came to bless and open a holy door after the basilica was named a pilgrimage site for the Catholic Church`s Year of Mercy.

Among the attendees was former Governor Bob McDonnell. He is awaiting word on whether the Supreme Court will hear an appeal in his federal corruption case.

A little more on St. Mary's, on Friday, we told about the problems the 158-year-old building is facing.

Members say the walls and windows need repair.

Also, the structure holding up the roof has rotted and decayed, which could cause the roof to collapse.

They`re now trying to raise $2M to cover those repairs.

Norfolk, Va.  - The Basilica of Saint Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception has a century-old history of helping the poor.

“We do so much good work here,” Pastor Jim Curran said. "The soup kitchen that feeds a thousand people a month. The food pantry that provides food."

But now, the church is asking for the public's help as the building's infrastructure starts to crumble.

“The issue is the skeleton, the structure that holds up the roof is all rotted. So beams, all of the rafters, all of the jolts are all in some level of decay and rooting,” Father Curran said.

Curran said that the repairs need to take place immediately to preserve the history of the basilica. He said the windows have been here since the basilica went up more than 150 years ago.

“The majority of these windows can`t be replaced,” Deacon Calvin Bailey explained. “Especially the ones behind the altar here. Those five windows there were a gift and they came from Germany. They don`t make windows like that anymore.”

Now, the basilica is trying to raise money to pay for renovations.

“The $2M takes care of the structure, it takes care of the windows and the painting of the exterior."

Father Curran says they are waiting for the city's approval before they can begin construction.

“The church has to stay up, it cannot fall,” Curran explained.

There is no word on when construction could begin.

The basilica's Holy Door Designation will take place this Sunday and they hope it'll shed light on the renovations.