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Parishioners will re-enter St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church to hold Mass for the first time since a burning tealight candle destroyed the church in January 2008.

The fire caused about $300,000 damage to the main sanctuary of the church's campus, which sits snuggled in the Midvale neighborhood near City Hall and historic Main Street.

Since then, parishioners sitting on folding chairs have squeezed into the social hall and gym for weekend Masses. The fire forced the cancellation of the annual parish festival, and families have held weddings, funerals and baptism services elsewhere.

"They wanted a church that looked like a church," said the Rev. Martin Diaz.

Sunday, after almost two years since the fire, a ceremony is scheduled to re-dedicate the new, bigger St. Therese church, which underwent a $1.3 million facelift. The public is invited to attend the Mass and potluck dinner after the service.

St. Therese, which opened in 1925, is one of Salt Lake County's 21 Catholic churches. The old church, built in 1974, held 400 people while the remodeled building is roughly one-third larger and seats 600.

Diaz, St. Therese's pastor for the past three years, said it doesn't matter where Mass is held but that it's nice to return to a "sacred place."

"It's like we've been on a long trip," Diaz said. "It'll feel like we're back at home."

The $1.5 million construction project also includes a new kitchen for the social hall ($150,000) and renovation of the chapel ($50,000), Diaz said.

The church is still raising money for the project, although parishioners have pledged about $500,000, he said.

Some church members said it seems like St. Therese has been rebuilding for more than 20 months.

Yedra Chacon, a seven-year member of St. Therese, was disappointed when the fire forced her last March to marry her husband, Victor, at a different church. The two met at St. Therese and remain active members.

So when their daughter, Carmen Maria, was born, they broke with family tradition to baptize her as soon as possible. They have waited seven months to baptize her next month in the new church.

"It means everything to me," Chacon said in Spanish.

Julia Espinoza and her daughter, Karolina Ramirez, stopped by the church last week to visit the church. Karolina is excited about having her quinceañera Mass in the new building.

"It's beautiful," Espinoza said in Spanish. "It's a total change."

If you go

What » St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church re-dedication ceremony and Mass

Where » 624 W. Lennox St., Midvale

Mass in English » 5 p.m. Thursday ; 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday

Mass in Spanish » 6:30 p.m. Thursday; noon and 2 p.m. Sunday

Phone » 801-255-3721