By Richard Meek 

The Catholic Commentator  

The grand lady looked fatigued, her beauty rankled by too much time in unrelenting heat and bone-chilling cold.  

DSC_4762.tif

The exterior of St. Margaret Queen of Scotland Church is reflected in the approaching dusk as rededication ceremonies come to a close on Nov. 17. The church underwent a major renovation, and exterior work included new paint, sidewalks, metal roof, a statue of St. Margaret in the new piazza and repairs on the steeple. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

One could almost detect a slight frown, and more than a little work was going to be necessary to restore her to her original grandeur.  

Today St. Margaret Queen of Scotland Church in Albany stands proud after a 14-month renovation project its restored her original beauty.  

“The church is brighter, cleaner,” pastor Father Jamin David said of the $3 million project. “She looks very proud.”  

Perhaps most miraculous is the church has survived. Seemingly crumbling at its core, the 110-year-old structure was fading rapidly and nearly in a state of disrepair, a fact not lost on Father David and parish members. Father David said the bones of a master plan were developed beginning in 2014 with the obvious question being what to do with the old church.  

Not only was the church losing its race to time, it had also become too small, especially for a parish that the Diocesan Planning Committee had deemed as having the highest growth rate per capita in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  

“That was fascinating,” Father David said of the committee’s findings.  

DSC_4766.tif

The renovated St. Margaret Queen of Scotland Church in Albany features a large statue of St. Margaret as the centerpiece of a new piazza. 

 

“We knew something had to be done,” he added, “whether that be salvage and rework the current building or moving toward building another facility.”  

Architect Josh Hoffpauir of Baton Rouge presented three options to parishioners, including building a new church, adding more onto the existing structure or renovating the existing structure.  

By an overwhelming consensus that topped 90 percent, parishioners expressed their desire to renovate the church, which was built by Hungarian settlers and whose descendants remain active members.  

“How we got to the preservation of the current structure was a more conservative approach but I think it was wise on behalf of the community,” Father David said. “The building is one of the oldest in Livingston Parish so there was a desire for the preservation of the old structure. And people have a lot of sentimental attachment to the building.” 

After 14 months of being shuttered, the church was rededicated on Nov. 17 during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael G. Duca.  

DSC_4500.tif

A procession from the parish hall, where Mass was celebrated for 14 months while the renovation was being completed, to the church led off the celebration.  

 

Parishioners immediately noticed dramatic changes in the church’s outer façade, with additions that had been built during the years ripped off. The result was the beautiful lady once again showing her original face, gussied up with a fresh coat of paint, new sidewalks, a new metal roof, improved drainage and a piazza with a stunning statue of St. Margaret standing sentry.  

“What we found was that a lot of the problems we had was caused by the additions that has been added on over the past 110 years,” said Father David. “A lot of what we did was throwing back a lot from the past and what the original structure was intended to look like.”  

Most alarming was discovering the support beams of the steeple were compromised through the years and in danger of collapsing, which could have caused massive damage. Amazingly, the entire steeple had backwards corrected itself and was being supported by the choir loft, which prevented it from falling over.  

“That was an act of God,” Father David said.  

DSC_4743.tif

Bishop Duca celebrated the rededication Mass, with many diocesan priests in attendance. Above the altar is stunning artwork inside an old frame that was found early in the renovation. The words “Glory to God in the highest” are written in Hungarian above the frame artwork.  

 

An addition was added to the rear of the church, which included a new confessional, sacristy, bathroom, gathering area and covered drop-off area.  

Once the doors opened, the beauty was breathtaking. Upon entering, one immediately noticed a massive gothic frame beautifully finished that was placed behind the altar. Father David said the old gothic window frame was found early on during the construction process, and it was immediately determined the sacristy would be built around the cherished discovery.  

Interior work also included all new pews, lighting, windows as well as a stunning refurbishing of the original wood floors.  

Seating was also increased from 250 to 320.    

st .margaret photo 3.tif

Father David dangles the new key to the church shortly before opening the door and allow his parishioners to view the renovated building.  

 

Folsum artist Norman Fauchex was commissioned to develop the Stations of the Cross, and what he delivered can only be described as one of the kind. Each station contains scenes that are unique to Louisiana, and even to the Albany area.  

In varying degrees, the stations feature such things as Hungarian clapboard houses, cypress trees, armadillos and possums. Adding even more to the uniqueness is some stations portray a parishioner in the background as a “little thanksgiving for what they have done,” Father David said.   

Of course, even Father David was portrayed, although there was a slight alteration.  

DSC_4684.tif

Incense was used not only during the blessing of the new altar but also in the blessing of the renovated building.  

 

Initially, Fauchex had portrayed Father David as Pontius Pilate, but after “gently asking,” he was changed to  Joseph of Arimathea.  

On the altar is a relic of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, appropriate because of the devotion the Hungarian community has to her.   

“I am satisfied with the way everything turned out,” Father David said. “It was tearing off years and years of history. It was almost as if every layer you peeled off, you were able to expose something else that was going to be a benefit.  

“It’s accessible, comfortable and representative of the people who attend liturgy here.”  

He noted parishioners expressed their delight that the integrity of the old church has been preserved but “we also cleaned it up and gave it the glory. Everything seems to fit so well in the church.”  

“Now we can focus on more ministry and advance the mission and ministries of St. Margaret.” 

st. margaret photo 2.tif

Bishop Duca pours oil on the altar during the Mass. The altar is new, along with the pews, ambo and tabernacle. 

St. Margaret photo 1.tif

Folsum artist Norman Fauchex was commissioned to design the Stations of the Cross, and each station features various vistas of Louisiana landscapes. One of the stations also includes a depiction of St. Margaret pastor Father Jamin David.