By Mary Woodward
COLUMBUS – Annunciation Parish realized a long-awaited dream on the Solemnity of the Assumption as they gathered for Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz on the Holy Day in the new church and then after the Mass made their way over to the original church to bless the historic restorations completed this summer. Father Robert Dore, pastor, was extremely pleased with the large turnout of parishioners and friends for the celebration.
The cornerstone for the original church was set in 1863 but construction was delayed another decade due to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Father Jean Baptiste Mouton, a French priest who was trained in architecture, designed the original church in Gothic style.
Father Mouton served the church in many places in the early days of the diocese. At one time he covered most of East Central and Northeast Mississippi serving developing Catholic communities from Meridian to Corinth. A chaplain during the war, he ultimately died of Yellow Fever during the 1878 epidemic.
The parish has been researching and planning the historic restorations for almost 10 years. The desire to capture much of its original decorative scheme and preserve its Jacoby stained glass windows fueled efforts to have the church declared a historic building on the National Register.
Parishioners poured over old documents and photographs of the interior of the church in order to preserve the design as closely as possible to the early decorative scheme. Conrad Schmitt Studios in New Berlin, Wisc., implemented the design under lead artist Will Kolstad, who has worked on other projects in the diocese at Jackson St. Peter Cathedral in and Natchez St. Mary Basilica in Natchez.
For the blessing, a standing room only congregation rejoiced in the culmination of years of hard work including no small amount of blood, sweat and tears and plenty of sacrifice.
One special moment for long-time parishioner Frank Troskey was to see the altar cloth his mother, Elizabeth, had made in 1942, adorn the original altar of the church. He said his mother would work on the cloth after dinner each night for several hours until it was completed.
The newly restored church will now be used as a daily Mass chapel, weddings and other special celebrations. A lift has been incorporated into the side of the building near the front steps for those who have trouble with stairs to enter the church.
Anyone wishing to help support the restoration of this historic Catholic house of worship may send a donation to: Annunciation Catholic Church, 823 College Street, Columbus, MS 39701