Storms may have destroyed buildings, but they built faith

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – Every debris pile removed, every tarp replaced with shingles and every “now open” businesses banner is a sign of recovery, inspiring hope. In Sulphur, where the city motto is “faith, family, community,” the sight of churches in various stages of repair is a reminder. Hurricanes might destroy buildings, but they can also build faith.

“With all the loss, stress and uncertainty, two things have been happening,” said the Rev. Edward Richard, pastor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. “Our parishioners have been engaged in their faith in new ways and with resourcefulness. There has also been a deeper awareness of the meaning of faith that has allowed many of us to look at temporal things with a greater sense of detachment. Even through the loss of property and, in some cases, the life of loved ones, the truths of our faith have sustained us, reminding us of why we believe and giving us hope for the glories of the fulfillment of God’s promises.”

The Rev. Canon Jean Marie Moreau is currently in residence at Our Lady of Prompt Succor at 1109 Cypress St. He has been since Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest purchased the property at 802 S. Huntington St. in December of 2019. What was once a mission church and the only Catholic church in Sulphur built by the Church of the Immaculate Conception was undergoing renovations seven months before the hurricanes. When complete it will be St. Francis de Sales Oratory.

A church has stood there since 1907, except for the interim when the mission-style building was used as the courthouse for the city of Sulphur. The hurricane of 1918 took out the first structure. It was rebuilt and dedicated under the title of Our Lady Prompt Succor, serving as a mission for 12 years before it was established as a parish.

“Damages from the hurricanes to the structure were mainly to the roof and consequently, water damage,” said Moreau. “The new roof is on, cracks in the plaster have been repaired and the church has been repainted.

“Benedictine Monks at Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma are building the altar. I hope work will be complete by the end of March so we can celebrate Easter and Holy Week,” Moreau said.

Hurricane Delta took down one entire side of Celebration Worship Center at 3231 Ruth St., and tore up parts of the roof causing water damage, according to Ashlee Quibodeaux.

Quibodeaux has been attending the Assemblies of God Church for the past 20 years.

“We’re focusing on repairs to the parsonage right now because we’re without a pastor,” she said. “Housing is hard to find and we know a repaired home that’s move-in ready will be a huge plus.”

Helping rebuild the parsonage, in addition to helping other individuals in the community rebuild, are volunteers from the Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders. They’re staying in an area of the church that’s intact and in RVs in the church’s parking lot.

The church is not up to pre-pandemic attendance, but Quibodeaux said the events of 2020 have made her faith stronger and she believes that’s true of fellow congregants.

“We can get through this because we have a source to get us through,” she said. “We’ve clung together like a family and we’ve been able to motivate one another to hang in there.”

The entire roof came off Highway to Heaven Church at 608 E. Lincoln St., and it took on a lot of water, according to the Rev. Thomas Clophus, senior pastor.

“We had just finished a complete remodel two weeks earlier,” Clophus said. “It took ServPro a good two weeks or more just to get it dry. That doesn’t include cleaning. I think they must be paid on how much they remove.”

Services resumed as soon as possible.

“They were ready to have church,” Clophus said.

Covid restrictions are observed. Temperatures are taken. Members are distanced six feet apart. Clophus said he misses pre-pandemic hand-shaking. The church has lost members to COVID-19 and hurricane displacement.

“Immediately after these tragic events, I was seeking the Lord and he gave me a message for the people of the church. Nothing can happen that God doesn’t let happen. We’re all going to be hit with something in life. He created the universe. He was here before the universe. Let’s encourage one another because, ‘we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ (Romans 8:28). And we love God.”

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