WESTPHALIA, TX — Six months ago, the Church of the Visitation in Westphalia burned to the grown. One of the largest wooden churches in Texas celebrating its 125th year was gone in the matter of minutes.
Darrell Kostiha grew up in Westphalia, visiting the parish often he chose to become a priest.
Church of the Visitation has a high number of priests and nuns that come through the parish. Kostiha was the 13th and last priest to be ordained there.
Over the years, there were 38 nuns and 2 deacons that have the parish to thank for their journey.
"I believe it was somewhat humbling to follow in the footsteps of so many who came before me," Kostiha said.
When Kositha heard the news about his home parish, he was a priest in Cyclone. Shortly after, he was presented the opportunity to come home. It is an uncommon act in the priesthood, but it was ultimately a great choice, he said.
"It normally takes about a year for us to get to know the people and the community - and here I kind of had the blessing of knowing everyone," Kostiha said.
Welcomed by the community with open arms, they were happy to see a dear friend lead them in such hard times.
"Knowing that he grew up in our community and is a member of that church and knew the love of the community and now he's apart of the building process and he's with us every step of the way," Kayla Skala said, a parishioner and friend.
Since the horrific day, Kostiha has worked with construction crews and the Diocese of Austin to help get the community back on track.
"So much has, ya know, gone on. There's a building council and Father Darrell has been updating us on the steps," Skala said.
Although were their church once stood it an empty lot, Kostiha still takes time to go out and remember what was once there.
"I [still] see everything, but it's so different looking out here now," Kostiha said.
Kostiha never really got to say goodbye to the Church of the Visitation.
"At the point that I got here, most of it was down," Kostiha said. Depsite this, he's looking forward to saying hello to a new parish.
Helping rebuild a brand new church is something Kostiha didn't think he would ever have to do, and now its his way of saying thank you.
"This was the opportunity for me as a priest to give back to the parish that has given me so much over the years in my journey to the priesthood, so that has been very exciting," Kostiha said.
Plans are underway and designs have been drawn for the new church, they hope to break ground by early summer but no date has been officially set.