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Our Lady of the Lake suspends new church idea

Four years of negotiating with the city of Mandeville and its neighbors about the possibility of building a new church in Old Mandeville near Lake Pontchartrain came to an end Sept. 10 after Our Lady of the Lake’s parish council and building committee voted not to proceed with any plans to build a new church.

“We could not convince enough people what was in the best interest of Our Lady of the Lake and the city of Mandeville,” said Father Mark Lomax, pastor for the past 14 months at Our Lady of the Lake.

"The real losers are the people of Mandeville,” he added. “They have lost a great opportunity for the future. Our plans were to build the finest building in St. Tammany, which would have been an asset to the historic district and the City of Mandeville.”

Because the existing church – dedicated in 1953 – only seats approximately 460 people, seven Masses have to be scheduled every weekend for the more than 3,000 people who attend, Father Lomax said. Masses are held in the old church and in the Chotin Multipurpose Center, where 800 chairs on the floor and bleachers are used for seating.

The parish handles the overflow of people at the 9 a.m. Mass by celebrating a second Mass with a second priest simultaneously at the Chotin Center. Sometimes, there are 1,000 people attending the 10:30 a.m. Mass, Father Lomax said.

Many attempts were made by the parish to get construction plans for a new church approved by the city of Mandeville’s Zoning Board. When the board continually voted against the plans, Our Lady of the Lake filed an appeal with the 22nd Judicial District Court in 2011. The court ruled against Our Lady of the Lake. A later appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the first court ruling. This required the parish to discuss what to do next, leading to the parish council’s decision to scrap all plans.

Father Lomax is the third pastor who has tried to figure out how best to accommodate the thousands of people who attend Mass at Our Lady of the Lake each weekend. Even with the parish council and building committee vote, Father Lomax sees a bright future for the parish.

“We will be using the old church and doing our best to preserve it and keep it up to the standards people are used to,” he said.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion  

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