By Tulifau Auvaa
APIA: MONDAY 02 JUNE 2014: Standing proud and dominant in a bright Saturday morning sun, the new Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Mulivai was dedicated for divine worship by Archbishop Martin Krebs from Wellington New Zealand – the Apostolic Nuncio to Cepac together with Alapati Lui Mataeliga, Archbishop of Samoa-Apia, the priests and the religious orders and the lay members of the faithful.
It was the first of celebratory masses. On Sunday the Sisters of Saint Marys SMSM that have made a major contribution to the spiritual and educational development of young Samoan women, celebrated mass for the 150th anniversary of service in Samoa. Then on Sunday night, Samoa celebrates mass dedicated to the country’s 52nd independence anniversary.
The immaculate structure that will be a major symbol of Apia town took three years to build and Her Highness Masiofo Filifilia Tamasese cut the ribbon to dedicate the $12million tālā church.
Built by Father Ricky Bernard, the parish Priest of Apia and his team of Samoan builders, he handed over the building keys to the local Church of Samoa, so that “it might be dedicated to God, the Almighty and become a House of God.”
Archbishop Martin Krebs, on the rites outside the church said that “on behalf of the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia, I accept this Cathedral to be dedicated to God. On behalf of the people of this Archdiocese, I thank you and congratulate you on your work.”
According to Sala Epi Passi, Chairperson of the Apia parish Finance Committee, “the project costs more than $12 million and a lot of the money was raised by the church members.”
Standing on three meters elevated ground, the cathedral stands on the site of the old cathedral originally constructed and dedicated in 1857.
An historical excerpt from Father Heslin’s notes on the Catholic Church in Mulivai, Apia:
“In 1852, William Pritchard sold to Bishop Bataillon a piece of land at Mulivai, about three quarter of an acre. Brother Jacques began the work of building a house for the priest and a church. The church was on the site of the present house while the residence was near the Mulivai stream. The work was difficult because the land was low lying and water logged. They had to dig down about nine feet and put in stones gathered from wherever it could be obtained. The first workers to be employed were some Negroes from the States, but they soon gave up and were replaced by some Hawaiians who were soon fed up also. Then it was the Samoans and some Wallis islanders. Then Bishop Bataillon arrived from Sydney with building supplies, timber, iron, nails, etc…., etc…, and Mr. John Shea to guide the work. The foundation stone was blessed by the Bishop on the 8th December, 1852 but the work was held up by epidemics and a recurrence of the war and a hurricane in 1854 which wrecked eight ships and caused extensive damage to plantations with consequent hardship regarding food supplies. So it was only in 1857 that the church was completed. During this time the priests could not stay to supervise the work as they were taking any opportunity to visit villages anywhere along the coast from Aleipata to Mulifanua.”