Oak Alter Furniture

Volunteers provide hope for storm damaged church.

SHOP OWNER: Pete LaBelle

    Several days after hurricane Katrina hit, the Catholic Church I attend here (Our Lady of the Lake) adopted a very poor Catholic church in Biloxi, MS (Our Mother of Sorrows). We’ve been working on getting them back on their feet. Without insurance money after the damage from the storm surge, significant financial contributions and donations of labor have rebuilt the interior of the church. The water from the surge that reached about six feet inside the building ruined all of the altar furniture, and replacement costs of commercial altar furniture was out of financial reach. Thus, while down for the Thanksgiving week “work bee”, I signed up to build some new altar furniture.
Oak Alter Furniture

    The pieces, all of red oak solids & oak veneered plywood, are of my own design and finished with polyurethane. The main altar contains the marble "altar stone" from the original altar.
Oak Alter Furniture

    The Altar of Repose (where the tabernacle resides) contains a cross on the front face. This cross is composed of maple that was salvaged from Our Lady of the Lake when it was expanded several years ago, and yellow pine (on the surface of the cross) that originally was a piece of a floorboard in the Our Mother of Sorrows church. I wanted to integrate something into the design that symbolically tied the two parishes together.
Oak Alter Furniture

    Driven by the fact that our second “work bee” team was to depart for Biloxi on Christmas day, my construction time line was short. Since I still work for a living by day, burning a lot of midnight oil was necessary to be able to complete the project and show it off at our parish before shipping it to Our Mother of Sorrows with the Christmas work team.
Oak Alter Furniture

    January 8, 2006 marked the first mass celebrated in the restored Our Mother of Sorrows facility since the hurricane. They are also the first church in the area, of any denomination, to be back in service. The oak plywood was a donation to the project, as was my time. Based on prices I've seen in catalogs, this project saved the parish around 90-95% over buying commercial furniture.

. . . Pete LaBelle



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