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A SHATTERED GULF COAST

Sunday Mass Returns to New Orleans Cathedral

October 03, 2005|From Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Churchgoers gathered to pray at the historic St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, convening in the building described as the "soul of the city" for its first Sunday Mass since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans more than a month ago.

Emergency workers and soldiers -- many of them out-of-towners who descended on Louisiana in the aftermath of the hurricane -- mixed with newly returning residents as they prayed for the resolve to carry on.

One man, standing in the back of the church, said to himself, as if in prayer: "Welcome back, New Orleans."

Roman Catholic Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans spoke of the more than 900 people who perished in his state and offered hope for those who remained to face rebuilding a region that still had some flooded areas, scattered power outages and wind damage.

The church was bright, as light shining down from the balcony made the altar's gold accents glitter. Candles burned on the altar and brightly lit chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

Some churchgoers shed tears during the service, as the choir and congregation sang hymns about finding shelter in a storm and getting through dark times.

"I cried just when thoughts came to me of all the things people are going through," said Michelle Hernandez, 27, of Jefferson Parish, who attended the service with her husband and two children.

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