New worship center goes up in Port Bolivar

September 21, 2010 4:09:44 PM PDT
Two years after Hurricane Ike tore across the Bolivar Peninsula, a major landmark in the road to recovery is opening. The Our Lady by the Sea Chapel and Catholic Center along Highway 87 is expected to be blessed Tuesday evening. Parishioners say it means a lot to them because people who live on the peninsula have had to attend church at Crenshaw Elementary School. On Tuesday, that all ended.

But with the construction of the new church, will it repair past differences?

More than two years after Hurricane Ike and $2.5 million, Bolivar Catholics finally have a place of their own.

"I think it's a symbol of the creativity and the guts of this community," Parishioner Patrick Rogers said.

Just weeks ago, parishioners like Rogers and his wife, Maryanne, had to attend services at the elementary school.

But on Tuesday, they marked the beginning of a permanent place of worship.

"Even though they say that God is everywhere, which he is, and no matter where you say Mass, you say Mass, it's very nice to have a facility as a church," Maryanne Rogers said.

From the outside, the building resembles more of a house than a church. But inside, it bears all the markings of a Catholic center.

The chapel itself has about 200 seats, and the entire place can hold 350.

"I'm delighted for the people here on Bolivar, that they have somewhere permanent to go pray and meet as a community," said Deacon Robert Standridge with the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese.

But the center isn't without controversy. It was built replacing two churches.

Parishoners with Our Mother of Mercy, which served in Bolivar, had protested, attempting to save that church.

The stained glass inside the new church was salvage from Our Mother of Mercy, a symbol the church deacon believes may help unite the parish.

"I think this will be a time to get together and start over," Standridge said. "It's a start-over day for this whole community here in Bolivar."

It's something the Rogers are praying for too.

"I hope that unites the whole Catholic community down here," Patrick Rogers said. "That would be my wish, and I think that will happen. It might take some time, but it will happen."

As part of the consolidating, a traveling priest will actually oversee the church.

The structure was built about 18 feet above sea level.

The blessing is expected to be performed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.


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