For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the Lake Catherine/ Venetian Isles community will be celebrating a reopening mass at the St. Nicholas of Myra Mission Catholic church on Saturday, March 8that 5pm. The return of the mission church marks a milestone for the Lake Catherine/ Venetian Isles community after losing more than 95% percent of its residents after the storm. Many residents feel that returning this church to service will bring a welcome quality of life to the community. The mass celebrant will be Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond.
The St. Nicholas of Myra Mission Catholic Church will receive a blessing from the archbishop and return to limited service. Residents are excited because for the first time in 8 years, their community will have mass available for the local population. Many have been working to restore the church which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Most of the community is expected to turn out for the celebration along with the Fort Pike Volunteer Fire Department. A reception will follow the mass at the Hi-Tide Restaurant at 20824 Chef Menteur Highway.
Many individuals and businesses were responsible for helping to return the church to service. However, the restoration was a labor of love lead by Rev. Michael Joseph Vinh N. Nguyen. Venetian Isles resident Gene Giroir said, “We could never have gotten this church restored without his leadership.” Unfortunately, Father Michael passed away in January of 2013.
The re-opening of the church recalls bitter-sweet memories for some because the storm also took the life of long time resident priest Rev. Arthur ‘Red’ Ginart, who was a beloved fixture in the community. Father Red, along with a few other residents, rode out Hurricane Katrina on the Lake Catherine island. The last mass at the church was held by him on August 28th, 2005.