Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Rebuilding St. Genevieve

St. Genevieve Church - in the Bayou Liberty section of Slidell is finally going to begin construction.

From Nola dot com:

A fluorescent orange X marks the spot where parishioners from St. Genevieve Catholic Church near Slidell will bring handfuls of dirt from home today to fill the spot where the groundbreaking for a new church will take place.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond will celebrate Mass under the stately oaks on the banks of Bayou Liberty where parishioners gathered five years ago for the first Mass after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the original church, which was built in 1958, though the Chapel of St. Genevieve existed on the site from the 1800s.

After the Mass, parishioners will drop the dirt into the hole where the new church’s altar will stand to symbolize the church becoming their new parish home, said the Rev. J. Roel Lungay, St. Genevieve’s pastor. The groundbreaking and the blessing of the site will follow.

“It means a lot,” Lungay said about what the new church will mean to the parish’s 900 families. “But it makes me think about the people who didn’t live to see the church rebuilt.”

The church will measure nearly 12,000 square feet, with fiber cement siding and a metal roof. It will have space for more than 500 parishioners, a sizable jump from the old church’s 350-person capacity and the 300 or so seats now available for worshippers in the church’s parish hall, where Lungay has been celebrating Mass since the storm.

The church will rise 7 feet off the ground, per the area’s new flood requirements, and an elevator will take those parishioners with special needs to the main floor. Officials at one point had hoped to build the church 11 feet high to be able to use the space underneath, but the cost became prohibitive, said Kathie Lusch, the church’s secretary and a member of the Building and Design Committee that helped to create the plan for the new church.

Mary Silva, a parishioner since 1983 when her family moved to the north shore from New Orleans, said she never felt like a true part of the church until she joined the effort to rebuild it. She said with so many parishioners original to the area, her family felt like it was on the outside looking in.

“This is giving us all a chance,” she said. “This is our church now.”

Lungay is hoping that families that left St. Genevieve after the storm will come back once the new church is built. The church lost about a third of its parishioners after the storm.

In addition, the church has been unable to offer religious education classes in the interim, though it joined with St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Slidell to provide children with the classes, and no one wants to have a wedding there, with no grand aisle to walk down, he said.

Construction is expected to take 18 months and will begin as soon as the church receives its building permit from St. Tammany Parish. The parish is waiting for the church to submit some paperwork to the parish’s Department of Environmental Services before granting the permit, said Tom Beale, a parish spokesman.

Parishioners will not be able to access the church’s boat launch during the construction period.

Officials salvaged the old church’s stained-glass windows, hand-carved Way of the Cross stations, 150-year-old baptismal font and crucifix, and will incorporate the items into the new church. The congregation also plans to restore the old church’s St. Genevieve statue.

The new church will cost $3 million, plus another $1 million to outfit the church once it’s built, Lusch said. The Archdiocese of New Orleans has set aside about $2 million for the construction, while St. Genevieve is nearing its goal of raising an additional $1.5 million.

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