Bolivar church gets TRO to stop demolition

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jun. 10, 2009, 5:24pm

Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church on the Bolivar Peninsula, before Hurricane Ike.

GALVESTON – The parishioners of the Bolivar Peninsula's lone Catholic parish have obtained a temporary restraining order against the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston from a Galveston County District Court judge, preventing the house of worship from an encounter with the wrecking ball.

Judge John Ellisor, 122nd District Court, on June 8 ordered the Archdiocese not to demolish Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Port Bolivar as well as give its churchgoers the opportunity to examine documents they believe provides them a voice on whether the 50-year-old church should be torn down.

The motion was filed by Galveston attorney Christopher D. Bertini on behalf of church attendees Judy Shaw and John DaFonte.

Our Mother of Mercy, which has a membership of approximately 200 families, was one of the few structures on Port Bolivar that sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Ike's assault on Southeast Texas on Sept. 13, 2008.

Court papers say Galveston County determined the damage to the church building was no greater than 50 percent thus did not have to be demolished.

The archdiocese, however, "has taken upon itself to demolish the church," the suit claims.

The defendant was in the process of tearing the parish down at the time Judge Ellisor approved the restraining order.

According to a June 9 article in the Houston Chronicle, workers had already removed the church's stained-glass windows and razed a community center, maintenance shed and barbecue shack.

The plaintiffs in the case say they have repeatedly tried to ascertain the rights of the parishioners when they learned the Archdiocese considered closing and demolishing the church.

"(Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church) is the only Catholic church remaining on Bolivar Peninsula," the complaint says. "If it is destroyed, the parishioners will be forced to travel several hours by car or ocean going ferry to worship."

The archdiocese will obey the court order, Claudia Deschamps, director of communications for the archdiocese, told The Galveston County Daily News and other media outlets.

"We will finish the demolition when the court order has been lifted," Deschamps said. "In the meantime, we have the matter under review."

Judge Ellisor scheduled a hearing on the case for June 22.

Case No. 09CV0916

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