Parishioners keep Bolivar church open

June 17, 2009 1:59:27 PM PDT
It's a victory for parishioners of the Our Mother of Mercy Church, the only Catholic church left standing on the Bolivar Peninsula after Hurricane Ike. Our Mother of Mercy has been there since on Bolivar since the 1950s and, at least for now, parishioners have won their fight to have the demolition stopped.

For Our Mother of Mercy parishioner Nancy Macon, the challenge of finding the perfect wedding dress with her best friend is overshadowed by the reality she will not be able to be married at the church she's spent a lifetime attending.

''It hurts me deeply, really deeply. I am from there, we all grew up there, went to church there. I was baptized there, went to first communion, confirmation, the whole nine yards," said Macon.

She is one of about 200 parishioners who attended church at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church on the Bolivar Peninsula. The building has been closed because of damage from Hurricane Ike.

The archdiocese was forced to stop demolition of the church by a temporary restraining order filed on behalf of the parishioners, saying the archdiocese "is immediately restrained from demolishing the church and surrounding buildings."

The archdiocese issued only a written statement saying they will comply with the order and ''in the meantime, we have the matter under review.''

Our Mother of Mercy is the only Catholic church still standing on the peninsula, a church built 50 years ago by Bolivar families. Those same families are now willing to sue the archdiocese to keep their church open.

"We're hopeful the archdiocese will sit down and talk to us and negotiate a solution. If they do not, we will go forward with the lawsuit," said Chris Bertini, parishioners' lawyer. Meanwhile, Macon has become suspicious of the church she loves.

"I am skeptical. It just shows they have no respect for what we want or any of our needs," said Macon.

A parishioner who recently died left a $200,000 legacy to the church. A family member told us the will stated the money was to be specifically used for the Our Mother of Mercy Church on Bolivar. The family has said that if the church is to be torn down and the money not used for the church, then the family wants the money back.

The parishioners are scheduled to meet with members of the archdiocese later this month at a court hearing, June 22, at the Galveston County Courthouse.

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