East Biloxi Landmark Will Soon Undergo Restoration

Boards now bandage the gaping holes where beautiful stained-glass windows once drew tourists from all over the country. St. Michael's Catholic Church still looks wounded. Yet five days a week, the faithful come back to worship.

"There are no houses on the Point. There are no people on the Point," said church member Jean Kuluz. "But people come back to this church because it draws people, just like Jesus drew the fishermen I guess."

Families involved in the seafood industry raised money to build the church in 1963. Frances Kovacevich was there.

"It was very special," said Kovacevich. "And everybody that attended the dedication said they'd never forget it when father stood up and said this church is paid for. We have money in the bank. There was a gasp. No one could believe it."

Their beloved Biloxi landmark survived Camille. Katrina caused about $3 million in damage.

"There's a lot of hope and a lot of excitement about being able to restore it back to what it was like," Pastor Greg Barras said.

The reason it has taken so long for St. Michael's to rebuild is because the church had to figure out a way to protect the structure from future hurricanes. So church leaders worked with the Missouri artists who designed and installed the stained-glass windows, and came up with some creative ideas.

"The lower 15 feet will be put on like a window," Fr. Barras explained. "And when a storm comes, we can push them up. If the water rushes in, it can wash out."

And the pews will be replaced with chairs and kneelers, that can be removed prior to a storm. Parishioners believe St. Michael's will return to its former glory.

"We had packed houses before Hurricane Katrina," said Patsy Kuluz. "And we're hoping it will be like that. We know it will be like that again."

And St. Michael's will carry on a Coast tradition, when it hosts the 79th annual Blessing of the Fleet to honor local fishermen. The event will be held the weekend of June 2nd and 3rd.