HOUMA, La. – Parishioners at St. Matthews Episcopal Church are promising to rebuild after fire destroyed their church building Thursday morning. Fire investigators are trying to figure out what sparked the huge fire at the second oldest church in Terrebonne Parish.
Neighbors called 911, around 3:45am, Thursday. Firefighters were still battling flames hours later. The same wood chopped down by the churches parishers in the late 1890's barely stands. Soot and charred rubble are all that's left of a building known for it's architecture and listed on the national historical registry.
The church is located on Barrow Street in the downtown area of Houma, near Terrebonne General Medical Center.
“It is a huge loss of the church building and the parish hall and one of our unoccupied school buildings,” said Chuck Bourque, of the church's board of trustees, “We have already experienced a great outpouring from the community.”
There is also a school next to the church. Most of the school buildings were not damaged in the fire, though one school building that was being renovated and not in use sustained damage.
Classes at the school will be canceled Thursday and Friday while investigators work to determine the cause of the fire.
Terry Leonard, the district fire chief, said no one was inside the church and no injuries have been reported. The call reporting the fire came around 3:40 a.m.
Leonard said that the church is a total loss. “It should be good to say that there will not be much left.”
“It was a beautiful historic church. It was built in the 1800s. It had beautiful stained glass windows and the parishioners kept that church immaculate,” said Connie Bourg. “It is such a tragic and terrible loss for Terrebonne Parish.”
“We are a very strong church. St. Matthew’s goes back about a 155 years,” said Beulah Rodrigue, a parishioner since 1947, “and everything in it, I know we cannot replace.”