June 16, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
For the parishioners of St. Eugene's Catholic Church, it's still hard to look back on what Hurricane Rita did.
"It was terrible we just couldn't believe when we came back," said church member TMae Booth.
"We had no walls, no pews, we had nothing left. The altar -- the marble altar was gone. We had nothing left but a roof," said church member Teddy Broussard.
Walls now back in place, the Grand Chenier congregation gathered today for a special re-dedication mass. Blessing the church, is newly installed Lake Charles Bishop Glen J. Provost.
"Upon being installed in the Lake Charles Diocese, St. Eugene's was the first church I visited on the coast that had been destroyed by Hurricane Rita," recalled Bishop Provost. "I was most impressed with the indomitable spirit of the people that would resurrect such a church."
It's a church that was also destroyed by Hurricane Audrey more than half a century ago. On this day the church is still proving not even a hurricane can kill their faith.
"I think this is a day of rebirth, it's a day of renaissance, a day of resurrection," said Bishop Provost.
It's a day this close knit community has prayed for. "We are so happy to be here and thank everyone who has helped us rebuild our church," said Father Vincent Vaddakkedath.
This day marks a milestone for both the church and Father Vincent who has been in Grand Chenier 13 years. These last two years have tested his congregation's faith, but through it all he's managed to hold his scattered flock together.
"He was here in the days right after the storm holding mass. Through cold weather, raining we came with blankets and our own folding chairs," said Booth.
"It's remarkable! The people grew stronger in their faith. We have a wonderful pastor and we hope we can keep him here forever," said Broussard.
As they celebrate this new day, the congregation holds fast to the tragedy that brought them closer together. "Without God, I don't know where we would have been. We had to just come together and just help each other through this time. And faith is the reason why we've come together and are happy to be here," said church member D'Juana Fontenot.