After devastating fire, Houma church is rising again

HOUMA, LA (WVUE) - Four years ago, a devastating fire gutted the St. Matthews Episcopal Church in downtown Houma. Crews aren't done rebuilding, but they've made big strides.

Progress takes time, and no one knows that better than the members at of the church. From the outside, you see it going up, but it feels likes it's taking forever.

Inside, a lot more work still has to be done, but it's a big change from where the church stood four year ago, in November.

Investigators think an electrical problem sparked the fire.

"It was a firebox," said church member Danny Lirette. "No way to stop the fire."

In minutes, the church that dated back to the 1800s was completely engulfed.

"It was so intense, I knew there was no way to they were going to be able to stop it," said the Rev. Craig Dalferes.

After the fire, the entire church was a total loss. All 14,000 thousand square feet had to be torn down and rebuilt.

"It was such an old church," Lirette said. "A lot of people got married, a lot of people got baptized. The old part, all cypress, came from this area. It was like losing part of this community when it burned."

The school behind it was also destroyed. Church members say there have been challenges.

"It seems like the last 14 months we've had a lot of rain, so we've been dealing with that on a consistent new basis," said Gregory

The construction crew is now heading into the final phase.

"We're almost to the end of the project, just about over," said Marvin Gregory, with Byron Talbot Construction.

The goal is to have parishioners back by December.

"We wanted to build the church as close as possibly to the old church," Lirette said. "We're hoping by the end of this year we'll be having Mass for Christmas.

And here's the thing about challenges: It has a way of bringing people together.

"I've worked with people that are in church that I really didn't know that well before the fire," Lirette said.

"Houma is a small community, but it's very close," Gregory said. "There's a lot of people involved with the project to bring it back to life. It's been a really pleasure being part of that."

The church is still raising money to cover rebuilding costs. They say the community has been extremely supportive, and even those who aren't members have donated.