St. Landry

Feb 10, 2011 11:41 PM by Maddie Garrett

Rebuilding Begins for Historic Church Lost in Fire

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington is moving forward, after the historic church burnt to the ground on January 14th. The exact cause of the fire hasn't been determined yet, but Father Albert Nunez said he believes the fire started from an old gas-powered heater in the attic.

And while nothing remains of the 155-year-old church, the congregation met Thursday to discuss the design and rebuilding of a new church.

"The more that people participate the better result we'll have and the more it will feel like it's theirs and that's very important," said Bob Lunsford, the architect designing the new Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

Lunsford has taken on the daunting, but honorable task of redesigning the historic church and he's doing it for free.

"It just felt like the right thing to do to ensure that what was put back kept the character of not only the community but of the original building," said Lunsford.

And the drawings he presented to the congregation Thursday night showed just that.

"We want to have the same feeling when we step in the church that we did before," said Father Albert Nunez, pastor at Immaculate Conception.

A few improvements need to be made, like indoor bathrooms, better safety features and adding a little more space to the original design. Lunsford is asking for any detailed pictures of inside and outside the original church to help in the design process.

"We'll have to make a few changes but the goal is to make it look exactly like it did before," said Lunsford.

The church did have have insurance, but it may not cover the roughly $1 million or more it will cost to rebuild. So the church is selling charred pieces of wood from the original church building for $5 each to raise money. And Father Nunez said they've already received over $14,000 in donations.

"It's just been an overwhelming response from neighbors and other churches," said Father Nunez.

It's a response that reminds us all of the real meaning of faith and community.

"A building is not the church, it's the people that are the church," said Father Nunez.

Lunsford gathered suggestions from parishioners Thursday night and will use those to make some adjustments to his designs. Lunsford will meet with the church again in two weeks as they continue the rebuilding process.

Father Nunez said they hope to have their historic church rebuilt in about a year to 18 months.



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