By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator  

On June 24, the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Father Matt Lorrain, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Brusly, burned the note on a $1.4 million loan to renovate the church … or in this case, because the renovations include a new sensitive state-of-the-art fire alarm, maybe just a paper shredder located near the altar.  

St. john Loan Shred grab

Father Matt Lorrain, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Brusly, shreds a copy of the cancelled loan note to celebrate being debt free. Photo courtesy of St. John the Baptist Church  

 

“As part of the new church restoration, they installed a new fire detection system that is quite sensitive,” said Father Lorrain. “So, rather than burn the note, I decided to shred it.”  

With the loan paid in full earlier in the year, Father Lorrain said he waited until “our parish feast day” to celebrate, which happened to fall on a Sunday. Before each Mass that weekend, he placed a shredder to the side of the presider’s chair, throwing off some members of the congregation.  

“It’s a solid black non-descript box, so at first, some thought it was a coffee maker or something like that, and at the end of Mass, when I was making the announcements I mentioned that the debt was paid in full. So, we got a copy of the note from the Diocese (of Baton Rouge) and with the big stamp on it saying canceled … and so, I just slipped the sheet of paper into the shredding machine and let it go.”  

Work on St. John, which included renovations, restoration and new construction, began more than a decade ago under the direction then-pastor of Father Matt Dupré, according to Father Lorrain.  

“It was a big job,” said Larry Durbin, who served on the building committee and acted as project manager on behalf of the church. “It took us a little over two years to do it, from the time we vacated the church until we moved back in.”  

“It turned out to be quite a large project, some $4 million,” said Father Lorrain. “They had raised quite a bit of money previous to the loan, but the loan was taken out on Aug. 1, 2011 for $1,788,800, which was the balance. And, so we’ve been faithfully, since that time, sending in a loan payment of $12,000 a month.” 

According to Father Lorrain, the church would send in money collected through pledges and the monthly building fund collection. He said the debt was so large that after the five-year pledge commitments ran out, “there was still a lot of debt remaining.”  

“By and large, most of it was just the generosity of the parishioners, month by month, contributing to the building fund,” he said. “And even after the pledges ran out, I asked them to voluntarily continue to contribute so that we could pay off the note.”  

“I think we paid it off a couple of years ahead of what our schedule was,” said Durbin. “I was tickled to death to see our parishioners continue to support it and pay it off.”  

“Father Dupré deserves the credit for the restoration of the church,” said Father Lorrain. “You know, with an old building like that, it needed quite a bit of work and once you start digging into it, you’re going to find out that the electrical wiring had to be replaced, things like that. And so it ended up costing quite a bit, but that was the time to do it.”  

Besides electrical wiring, all of the plumbing in the building had to be updated. The church, built in 1907, also lacked amenities found in today’s structures. An annex was built that included restrooms, a bridal room, a sacristy and a covered drop off area. Also, the steeple, which Father Lorrain said was blown off in a storm 100 years ago, was replaced.  

“Everyone is pleased,” said Durbin. “We’ve had visitors constantly coming by to see the church, our new church, as we call it. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”  

Though there is more work that needs to be done, according to Father Lorrain, such as a new parish office building, those plans, for now, are on hold.  

“We need to wait a while and kind of enjoy just not having any debt before taking on another big project,” said Father Lorrain. “(It) feels like a huge burden has been lifted. It’s a huge moment. It’s rare that you get a chance to celebrate being debt free because so often there’s another project on the horizon.”