Parishioners gathered Sunday to mark the one year anniversary of a Cape Breton church burning to the ground.

St. Mary’s Polish Church was reduced to rubble after fire tore through the building. Through tears and sorrow, parishioners vowed to rebuild.

Now, they’re well on their way to a new beginning.

"We walked through the streets and the ashes were actually falling like snow would,” said parishioner Krista Starzomski. “When I think of that day, I think of how fortunate we are to have this church being built."

Sunday’s gathering focused on celebration rather than somberness. 

"We decided as a parish that we would not mark this as a sad anniversary, but as a very hopeful day," said Tom Urbaniak, Parish Council chair.

The construction crew building the new church was invited to mingle with parishioners, many of them meeting for the first time.

"It really gives the guys a sense of what they're going after, what this building means,” said construction project manager Howie Doiron. “They put their heart and soul into what we're building right now."

The new church is about half built. The speed of the project is impressing locals and parishioners.

"It's coming up quickly, said Starzomski. “It's beautifully built, and we're hoping that in the new year we'll be celebrating mass there once again."

"There are going to be a lot of tears, and there's going to be great joy at that first mass," said Urbaniak.

The rebuild will cost more than $1.33 million. Some is covered by insurance, and the rest collected through fundraisers by the congregation.

Through it all, their resolve and connections with the community are growing stronger.

"As difficult and as stressful as the past year has been for the entire parish, something beautiful and something good is coming out of it for the whole community," said Urbaniak.

It’s hoped the new church will be ready by spring.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.