As places all around St. Charles Parish struggle to find their pre-Hurricane Ida footing, St. Gertrude the Great Catholic Church is no exception. Church attendance has never rebounded from COVID-related closings, and the extreme damage the church buildings and grounds sustained during Hurricane Ida means the Des Allemands place of worship is still without running water or electricity.
“We do the best we can and we take it week by week,” Father Ray Hymel, the current pastor of St. Gertude, said.
Each week an average of 60 people faithfully show up to the church for services, despite any temperature-controlled place to gather. That number is nearly half of pre-COVID attendance.
Sheena Candies, who helps to organize events and fundraisers for the church, said she and others have been meeting – sometimes with an Archdiocese of New Orleans representative and sometimes without – to brainstorm about ways to make the church more viable.
“Right before the storm our insurance company was changed and the deductible is high,” she said. “We’re waiting to see if FEMA will cover anything. The Archdiocese is not helping us rebuild at this time due to their bankruptcy. Right now we have two masses a week … Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Attendance is down but we are not behind on payments.”
Candies said Archdiocese officials have encouraged St. Gertrude parishioners to think outside the box about fundraising opportunities. Due to COVID and Hurricane Ida, 2022 marks the third year the church has not been able to have its traditional three-day Catfish Festival, which was easily its largest fundraiser. Candies said she is currently looking for a location to have craft fairs that would benefit the church.
“Anytime I have ever done any fundraiser or show or anything … people show up and help,” Candies said.
Hymel said the Archdiocese has told him and St. Gertrude parishioners that the church will soon undergo a feasibility study to determine whether it is feasible for it to continue as a church parish.
“I truly appreciate the core parishioners for their faithfulness, love and dedication to their church parish,” he said. “God is definitely seeing that faithfulness.”
For more information on the church and upcoming fundraisers, visit the church’s Facebook page.