St. Thomas congregation has a new church in Long Beach - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

St. Thomas congregation has a new church in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) -

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Members of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Long Beach, will no longer be worshipping in the old skating rink which became their church home after Hurricane Katrina.

Friday, the Most Reverend Bishop Rodger Morin of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi dedicated a new church building, more than five years after the storm destroyed the previous beach-front church.

This is the parish's third church building. The first, built in 1905, was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969 when rising waters from the storm pushed a barge into it. The second church was dedicated in 1972.

"We had many meetings, discussions, struggles, prayers, fears, doubts, and questions, and after all of that, we made the decision to rebuild back on the beach," remarks pastor Fr. Louis Lohan. "We have worked very hard to preserve our church for those ahead of us."

The long-awaited new church, designed by Ron Blitch of Blitch Knevel Architects, Inc. along with the staff of Eley Guild Hardy Architects, contains the four stained-glass windows of the 1972 church. The windows, which miraculously survived Hurricane Katrina, had been painstakingly removed by parishioners from the remnants of the destroyed church.

The new, sacred building is larger than the previous one, rising 81 feet in the air and seating 750 people. It will serve the more than 1300 families that belong to its congregation.

"With the dedication of this beautiful campus, we will begin a new chapter in our 105-year history," said Jerry Levens, chairman of St. Thomas' pastoral council and building committee.

"Our parishioners faced adversity, made sacrifices, took a collective and unified approach and conquered the challenges created five and a half years ago. Our faith has helped us arrive here today, and it will keep us strong in the future."

In addition to the worship space, the new facilities include a bell tower, an 8,700 square foot community center and a 19,100 square-foot office complex.

"We are humbled and very grateful," continues Levens. "We are proud to share our parish's blessings with the City of Long Beach and the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast."

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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