Brussels, IL - A shell is all that's left of St. Mary's Catholic Church a year after it burned. The fire started during Christmas Eve mass 2011.
"They thought they had the fire put out and then it surfaced again later when no one was there and the fire took over the church. There was not much left except the walls standing," says Father Don Roberts.
Parishioner and rebuilding committee member Yvonne Macauley says it left a hole in the small community. The church had been standing here for more than 150 years.
"It's been agonizing," she says.
After some delays, reconstruction has begun. It started around Thanksgiving with crews removing rubble and pouring concrete. When it's all finished, Macauley says the total cost is expected to come in around $2 million.
"They're working on the brick work. The bricks have fallen in because of the roof and the ceiling coming down," Father Roberts says. "They've been repairing the bricks because of the fire damage and the bell tower and the bricks that have come in from the side walls."
Rebuilding has not been quick nor has it been easy. But the parishioners are determined to get it done and get back inside one brick, one wall, and one slow day at a time.
"There's a lot of red tape in dealing with an old structure and fitting it to current codes and current construction methods," says Roberts.
There's still a long way to go, but getting this far taught them some lessons.
"I think they've got great resolve and great hope. They were very pleased when they heard that the church would be rebuilt. There was some question about that in the weeks immediately following the fire," Roberts says.
"At first they were really doubtful if the bishop would let us do this. Then just started trusting God and our belief that it just had to happen," adds Macauley.
And with that same spirit of hope, Father Thomas says they look to the future.
"We're looking forward to being in the church completely rebuilt and the joy that I think that's going to bring to the people and the parish and particularly to the Brussles community."
They anticipate being in the rebuilt church by Christmas 2013, but we're told it could be sooner.