Southern Illinois church destroyed by 2012 tornado reopens - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Southern Illinois church destroyed by 2012 tornado reopens

RIDGWAY, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - A southern Illinois Roman Catholic church destroyed by a February 2012 tornado has reopened after a $6 million rebuilding effort.

The Leap Day twister demolished St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Ridgway nearly four years ago. 

“It was just horrible,” St. Kateri Parishioner, Tony Cox said.

On February 29, 2012, the Leap Day tornado destroyed St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ridgway, Illinois.

“People…they were just in shock,” Cox said. “They were weeping from looking at it. The weddings, the anniversaries, all the things that go along with that, you know and just everyday church stuff is gone.”

Everything had been destroyed except for one item that stood tall through it all.

“Here was this huge church in nothing but a pile of rubble, no roof no nothing and out of the middle of it stood this altar by itself basically completely unscathed,” Cox said. “It was originally put into this church around the late 1800s. It was made out of a marble that was shipped out of Italy.”

And through the devastation, there was hope.

“We just knew we were going to build it back,” Cox said with excitement. “We’ve had donations from people just from all over the United States, and then of course all the parishioners have stepped up in a pledge drive and just unbelievable what they’ve done to financially take care of this.”

St. Joseph was later changed to St. Kateri after consolidating with area churches.

On Sunday, November 29, there was a dedication for its reopening.

“A lot of crying, a lot of crying that day,” Cox said with a smile. “It was a very unique experience that none of us will ever forget.”

Members of St. Kateri Catholic church are working on more projects to add to the new building in the future.

The church is named for St. Kateri Tekawitha, the first North American saint.

The tornadoes that swept across southern Illinois and demolished the church left eight dead in Harrisburg.

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Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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