A church Katrina destroyed is rebuilt with love and faith

Life Beyond Katrina: Our Lady of Lourdes

The bells of Our Lady of Lourdes survived Katrina. The sound from the Slidell church symbolized God's power to lifetime parishioner Shawn McManus.
"When the wind was just right, we could hear the bells and that was about 3 miles away," he said.

There is an empty lot where the old Our Lady of Lourdes Church stood, a constant reminder of what Katrina did. Michael Guidry, the church custodian, remembers driving up to the devastation after the storm.

"When I pulled up, the stained glass window was in the parking lot and the roof was gone. It's like someone chopped the top of the church off," Guidry said.

The bell tower was leaning badly, and Guidry says the bells were taken out of the tower until they could be reinstalled in the new church. The school was still standing.Stephen Nichols is vice principal.

"There was mud everywhere. We found turtles and fish in the mud and it was really scary," Nichols said. "I had heard through the grapevine people were wondering if they could go back because there was nothing left."

Guidry said they didn't give up.

"We were going to persevere and come back," he said.

The first Mass after Katrina was in the street outside the demolished church. It was later moved to the damaged cafeteria until the church could be rebuilt. That took the community pulling together.

"It was a little over $3 million that had to be raised privately in the community and a lot of sacrifice to do that," McManus said..
Guidry said the church was rededicated in May of 2010, and the gym was completed a few years later. The new church was built down the street on land the church owned. The altar and the bricks in front are all part of the old church that surrendered to the wind. It took years for the old bells to be restored - one of the last pieces of recovery that helps parishioners move forward.

"Once we heard the bells going again, it really rang home for me," McManus said.

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