2 Chicago churches damaged by fire in recent years

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The world watched as Notre Dame Cathedral was destroyed in a massive fire on Monday in Paris, but it was not the first historic church to be devastated by a fire.

In Chicago, Woodlawn's Shrine of Christ the King was ravaged by flames in October 2015. Like Notre Dame, the outside structure remains, but its inside was destroyed.

Father Jean Baptise Commins celebrated his first Mass as a newly ordained priest just three days before. He knows all about the devastation fire can bring upon a church.

He also spent a key part of his life growing up in Paris.

"When I was a teenager I would go there and pray and ask God what he wanted me to do with my life," Commins said.

As the renovations continue at Shrine of Christ the King, held up by a lack of funding, services are held in the priory's basement, three every Sunday.

Restoring a church damaged by fire is painstaking work.

In 2009, when flames destroyed a large portion of Holy Name Cathedral's roof, it was Chicago's Daprato Rigali Studios that was entrusted with the renovations.

Dedicated to renovating and restoring houses of worship, their crews were able to assess the damage and create a plan that allowed them to reopen Holy Name six months later.

It will be the same process going forward in Paris, except on a much larger scale.

"They'll just go through to see what they can restore as opposed to rebuild. I think that's what their first focus is going to be," Lisa Rigali, of Daprato Rigali Studios.

It could take decades to rebuild Notre Dame.

However, Rigali said modern technology, along with 3D imaging that exists of the cathedral, will help the restoration process and even allow for improvements, such as the use of fire resistant materials.
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