From the devastation of Hurricane Irma rises the new St. Peter Catholic Church on Big Pine Key, where construction by Florida Lemark Corporation is in its final two to three months.
While the walls withstood Irma’s winds, the inside succumbed to water damage.
“The water went in the church and it was like a washing machine inside,” Father Jesus “Jets” Medina, parish administrator, said in a September 2019 story in Florida Catholic magazine. Once live Masses resumed amid the pandemic, the parish held weekly services in a tented, but air-conditioned outdoor pavilion.
The tent has clear cutouts through which parishioners can watch Key deer grazing on the nearby soccer field.
“We have Catholic deer,” parish bookkeeper Nancy McCrosson said in the Archdiocese of Miami magazine article. “The ushers have to make sure the deer don’t come in.”
The new church, with an estimated cost of $9 million, is 5 feet higher than the former structure to hopefully avoid future flooding, the Florida Catholic article states.
Parishioners managed to salvage the church’s altar, baptismal font and other items from the original structure. They also saved 25 stained-glass windows that survived Irma in September 2017 thanks to hurricane shutters and impact windows.
St. Peter Church Facebook page provides regular construction photos and updates to parishioners that include both year-round and seasonal residents.