Houma, La. - Vivid light always shined from the stained glass windows of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. But in the days after the devastating fire in 2010, there seemed to be little color left on the corner of Barrow and Belanger Streets in downtown Houma.
Investigators determined an electrical problem sparked the flames. The fire destroyed the church and school behind it. The sanctuary, made of cypress, had been standing since 1892.
Now construction is under way on a new St. Matthew's. Crews expect to finish driving the pilings this week and the new sanctuary should be complete in about 18 months.
"I can't wait and I tell people that when we get it done, we're going to have a party for a week and everybody's going to be invited," says Father Craig Dalferes. "We're going to feast and it's going to be a great day for St. Matthew's Church and for our whole community."
The old church saw so many big events in its lifetime: weddings, baptisms, and funerals, all under the glowing stained glass. Those will be replaced in the new church.
While keeping in mind what made the old St. Matthew's unique, designers of the new church are also looking ahead. It will be modernized and ready to serve for the next 100 years.
"We've made a special effort to eliminate steps going into the church," says Dalferes. "We have a number of people who have difficulty negotiating steps and wheelchair access was really limited before, but now we've got a great design that's going to make it a lot easier for people."
St. Matthew's served generations in Terrebonne Parish before the fire and the new sanctuary should be here for even more lifetimes.
As spring begins, color is coming back to this corner.
"The inside of that building was just remarkable," says Anne Picou of Main Street Houma-Terrebonne. "When you walked in, you felt that faith, you felt like somebody was just giving you a hug and it's gonna be there again."