Big Changes for St. Joseph Church in Zwolle

Photo: Bishop Michael Duca anoints the new altar at St. Joseph Church in Zwolle, LA on June 8.

Stripping a sanctuary down to its very bones is difficult in many ways, but it is tolerable if you know the end result will be a wonderful improvement in your place of worship. This is the recent experience of the Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Zwolle and their Pastor, Rev. Timothy Hurd.

In a project begun in April of last year, Fr. Hurd has led the people of St. Joseph on a bold, ambitious journey of demolition and reconstruction that has resulted in a new and engaging place of worship for the largest Catholic congregation in our Southern Deanery.

It all started with a vision. “I knew what I wanted our Sanctuary to look like,” said Fr. Tim, “but I just had to find a way to flesh it out and make it work, even if it meant some hard decisions on how to accomplish our goal.”

He also had to convince the people of his parish that his plans for the Church had real merit. This was a daunting task, especially for those who have first-hand knowledge of Catholicism in Sabine Parish. Hundreds of families have ties to Zwolle’s St. Joseph Church and have a fierce devotion to their parish through worship and a wide host of activities that surround an active Church life. Because of this, major changes within St. Joseph’s sanctuary were closely scrutinized.

“I thought our people might tie me up and deposit me on Highway 171 for Bishop Duca to come and pick up,” joked Fr. Tim. “But they saw the possibilities and bought into the process beautifully.” Fr. Tim guided the parish in choosing their architect and builder and the people of St. Joseph made ready for the wrecking ball by moving their worship space down the hill to the Parish Hall after Easter Mass in 2012.

“It was hard to see our sanctuary become a mere skeleton,” commented lifelong member and current Zwolle Mayor Pie Martinez. “But Fr. Tim had a vision and we trusted his leadership and ended up with just what we needed, a beautiful new Church that holds even more worshippers than before and we did it all under budget.”

St. Joseph Church under construction.

St. Joseph Church completed.

Trustee and Church Finance Council member Edith Palmer was impressed with how her faith community worked together to make their new Church a reality.  “We formed a Renovation Committee and the people of St. Joseph really worked together to raise additional funds for renovation work including fishing and baseball tournaments, a mother-daughter style show and a host of socials to help bring in extra funds. The best part about it for me was seeing our young people so involved in helping us reach our goal.”

On Saturday, June 8, the long wait ended when Bishop Michael Duca led the people of St. Joseph into their new place of worship for the first time and blessed the newly completed Sanctuary that was stuffed to the brim with 650 members of its Church family. “Give thanks for this wonderful house of worship,” Bishop Duca encouraged those gathered, “let this sanctuary be a place of holiness for many years to come.”

From its soaring altar area, newly installed stained glass and five hundred-year-old Italian Baptistry to the newly constructed pews, St. Joseph’s sanctuary now dazzles the eyes and the senses as one enters a place that displays the very best in Catholic imagery and inspiration.

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Communications

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