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Volunteers rally to repair church after tornado hits St. Charles Parish

“When you have a deep faith and a close community, you do these things because you want to rebuild."

PARADIS, La. — St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Paradis hoped they’d seen the last of generators, box fans and tarps, but EF-1 tornado sent them back into recovery mode.

“Back to square one, you know?” Fr. Joseph Vien said the day of the tornado.
Fr. Vien had been living in a trailer outside the rectory since Hurricane Ida.

Saturday’s tornado took that temporary home away from him. But in the days since, parishioners have rallied around him and the church.

“When you have a deep faith and a close community, you do these things because you want to rebuild,” Janice Dufrene said.

Dufrene is one of the dozens of volunteers who came to the church after the tornado to clear debris, cover roofs and clean up water damage. Her biggest task right now is setting up a new space to host mass.

“We will have mass,” she said. “Through flashlights and open doors, we’ve suffered heat and the cold, people still come.”

In the days after the storm, mass was held in the church by lamp light and flashlights, but with the ceiling caving in, they needed a new location. That led them to the rectory. The building has been under repair for more than a year, but it may finally be ready to host the community again thanks to the hard work of people like Dufrene.

She’s been a part of a group of volunteers setting up an altar in the rectory and putting together a room for Fr. Vien to move into with this trailer destroyed.

“It's not what you get out of it, it's what you put in,” DuFrene said. “If you go with intent to greet the Lord or you’re talking to the Lord in your heart…he's gonna talk back to you. Guide you in your ways.”

Masses are set to resume at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church this weekend, starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday. They hope to be back in their church again in two weeks.

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