“Can you hear me all right?” Msgr. Tim Nichols asked the parishioners of St. John Vianney before the Saturday vigil Mass on July 7, the first celebrated in the Hacienda Heights parish’s interim church after the church building was destroyed by arson in April 2011. Applause answered his question, and the pastor grinned.“This will be our place of worship for the next three years or so,” he went on, pointing out the benefits of moving Eucharistic celebrations out of the parish hall and into the temporary structure. Not only can the hall resume its real role — for instance, hosting the parish’s summer camp — but parishioners can now kneel at the appropriate parts of the Mass. “We haven’t been kneeling for a while, right?” a still-beaming Msgr. Nichols asked the crowd. “Try them out,” he said of the kneelers attached to the back of each chair. The interim church — which seats 780, compared to the old church’s 1000-person capacity — is a rented tent-type structure, cooled by rented air conditioners; it is filled with purchased chairs, and music is provided by a purchased piano and organ (the church’s instruments having been “burned to cinders,” Msgr. Nichols explained). It also contains a Blessed Sacrament chapel in one rear corner, and a confessional in the other. All of it has been paid for by the insurance company — to the tune of $880,000, which is not part of the insurance settlement for the arson damage. Though an insurance settlement has not yet been reached, already the parish’s rebuilding fund totals about $1.5 million, said Msgr. Nichols. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have poured in from around the world. “You feel proud to be Catholic that someone will send you a check from Copenhagen, Denmark,” said Msgr. Nichols, “to know that... people throughout the world saw this on the internet and were generous.” The parish itself has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through various events, such as a luau that brought in $17,000; a Christmas home tour that raised $33,000; and a golf tournament, held in March, that raised $56,000. “It was just a miraculous day,” said Richard Hopkins, a 25-year parishioner who was on the tournament committee. A number of tasks remain on the to-do list to bring the interim church up to par. Ducting for the air conditioning is not yet complete, for instance, and the lighting needs to be tweaked. “But overall, it’s okay, isn’t it?” Msgr. Nichols asked Mass-goers, who responded with more applause, and participated with loud “Amens” in the simple blessing that concluded the Mass.Construction plans are proceeding steadily. The parish expects to select an architect within the next few weeks, and a series of seven informational meetings kicks off in late August, instructing parishioners on the historical, spiritual and liturgical context of building a place of worship, and encouraging them to share their visions for the new parish. “We don’t want it to be my church; it’s got to be our church,” said Msgr. Nichols. “We want the folks to be happy with the building they’re building.” In the meantime, he admitted that the interim church makes a nice change of perspective both for clergy and parishioners. “We’ve been looking down into the cavern of the old church now for 15 months,” he said. “We see movement ... so we’re very happy with that.”’Progress has also been made in the legal investigation; a suspect was arrested in May. It’s a relief to be moving forward, said Hopkins, who had been the last person to exit the church before the arsonist struck the night of April 16. “We’re looking forward to getting back on our feet,” he said. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0713/sjvianney/{/gallery}