NEW ORLEANS -- It is a simple building, but the return of the St. Nicholas of Myra church is a powerful symbol of Hurricane Katrina recovery in the Lake Catherine community.
'This church is more of a family-oriented church, and I'm so glad to have it back,' said congregation member Hill Wagener. 'It means that I can go to church one mile from my house, rather than travel 12, 14, 15 miles.'
That's what residents of the far eastern New Orleans community have had to do as they rebuild the area after Katrina.
The hurricane even pulled the asphalt off Hwy. 90. The storm surge washed away the interior of St. Nicholas Church.
Popular pastor Arthur Ginart, known as Father Red, disappeared. He is still missed.
'He didn't have parishioners. He had friends, and the people just enjoyed him,' said Mike Ginart. 'He was a regular guy.'
Father Red's nephew Mike and Mike's son Johnny brought a bust of Father Red to the repaired church.
'When they come to church, he'll be here like he has been for the 30 years prior to Katrina,' Mike Ginart said.
It took area residents three years to complete the repairs to the St. Nicholas Church.
'We had to scrounge around, get donations here and there,' said project coordinator Eugene Giroir. 'Kinda no directions which way to go.'
Archbishop Aymond will be here Saturday for the re-dedication of St. Nicholas of Myra, and they expect the church to be packed, because this is the return of a community centerpiece.
'Here I got baptized by Father Red, and it is really important to bring back all the memories that happened earlier,' said parishioner Sara Gaspard.
'It's like a community. It's not a parish, it's a community now,' Giroir said.