The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

The Chapel Of the Good Shepherd in Balzan

Malta Independent Sunday, 4 January 2009, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd need no introduction. Renowned mainly for their pastoral and philanthropic work among single mothers, battered wives, and lately refugees, the Good Shepherd Sisters came to Malta in 1858, during the lifetime of their foundress St Maria Euphrasia Pelletier (1796-1868). They established their first residence in the country house of the noble Testaferrata family in Main Street, Balzan. Eventually they were given a large plot of land extending from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary convent in St Francis Street to Villa Madama, close to San Anton Gardens.

Within a few years the Congregation started the building of their spacious convent and the adjoining chapel dedicated to the Good Shepherd. Architect Vincenzo Busuttil designed the chapel and its construction was entrusted to the Balzan master mason Piju Ebejer. Bishop Pietro Pace blessed the foundation stone on 10 March 1898, and three years later, on 7 February 1901, Mgr Pace blessed the chapel. This elegant church, built in finely sculpted Malta stone, impresses the visitor by the calm and serenity it inspires, and is a true oasis of prayer not only for the Sisters but also for the village faithful who frequent it. Archbishop Michael Gonzi consecrated the chapel on 8 March 1952.

An unfortunate incident happened in November 2007 when a thunderstorm, hit the islands and lightning struck the belfry of the church and caused considerable damage. The cross and orb on top of the belfry were dislodged from their base and fell onto the roof of the chapel, damaging the projecting cornice of the structure. Some stone slabs from the roof were also badly damaged and had to be replaced. This was a sad and unfortunate event not only for the Good Shepherd community, but also for the Balzan people who frequented this church, an accident which would surely have had more serious consequences had it occurred during the day. As a result, the chapel had to be closed for some months and no religious services could be held.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, notwithstanding the unexpectedness of this eventuality and their limited budget, made the necessary contacts with construction and restoration firms to have repair works done in the best professional way and at a reasonable price, so that their church could be reopened and the iconic belfry restored to its original beauty. The roof of the chapel was repaired in the spring of last year, whereas restoration work on the belfry started last September and is still underway. When the project is finally concluded, hopefully within the next few weeks, it will have cost around €25,000.

It is our hope that the Good Shepherd Sisters will find the financial help they need, not only to see this project through but also to be in a position to break even financially. It is each and every one’s duty – government, commercial agencies, and citizens – to give one’s share to this noble cause. We owe it not only to the preservation of the historic and artistic patrimony of our country but also as a token of appreciation for the sterling work the Good Shepherd Sisters do in our islands.

Carmel Bezzina


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