Tom Urbaniak could barely contain his excitement as a crane delicately, but swiftly, placed a new steeple atop the rebuilt St. Mary's Polish Church in Whitney Pier Thursday morning.

"A testament to grit and goodwill," he said.

The church is being reconstructed after its century-old predecessor burned to the ground in November 2014. Members of the tightly-knit parish quickly vowed to rebuild.

The steeple installation is an important moment.

"It happened flawlessly, just as so much of this project has gone," said Urbaniak, the chair of the St. Mary's parish council.  

"With the dedication of the workers, all of the volunteer efforts, the support of people of all denominations and backgrounds. I think just the beautiful day and this beautiful site is a testament to a beautiful community, and may that continue for generations."

The budget for the rebuild is $1.3 million. The insurance settlement from the fire is expected to cover most of the costs, but the parish has been raising funds to make up the shortfall.

'Important symbol'

Urbaniak said fundraising efforts have gone well beyond the parish and the Polish community.

"The steeple was fibre-glassed by boat builders in Port Morien," he said. "The cross, which will eventually go on the steeple, was made by metal fabrication students at NSCC Marconi's metal fabrication program.

"And those are just two examples of this great Cape Breton community coming together for an important symbol."

He's not the only one that's pleased.

"It's just a wonderful thing to know that hard work and dedication pays off," said Anne Marie Campbell, a resident of Whitney Pier. "It's really emotional."

There's still several months of work needed to complete the building. Urbaniak hopes the reconstruction project will be seen as a sign of rebirth in Whitney Pier and across Cape Breton.

"In spite of all the adversity, all the things that happen, unexpected things that happen, disasters, we can rise again," said Urbaniak, "We are rising again, all of us."