Fire won’t stop congregation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The parish of St. Mary’s Catholic Church is already moving forward following the break-in and suspected arson at the church early Friday.

In the short term, going forward has meant finding somewhere to worship, and this past weekend, that place was Baker Funeral Home.

&uot;They have been very generous, they gave us the ability to have Saturday and Sunday services just as we normally do,&uot; said Pastor Lou Ruoff.

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Baker Funeral Home has not been the only place to offer a temporary home for the parishioners of St. Mary’s, Ruoff said.

&uot;Other Christian churches have offered their space. West End Baptist, beginning this weekend, is letting us have space for our religious education classes.&uot;

Just as important as having a place to congregate is the emotional and spiritual rebuilding that is beginning to take shape.

On one hand, Ruoff said he told his church they had a right to be angry and upset over the destruction of such an important part of their lives.

&uot;The church, the building, it represents a lot of blood, and sweat, and tears, and even a lot of soul for the people here.&uot;

At the same time however, Ruoff said he and his parishioners must count themselves fortunate that the damage was not worse, and that they can go forward together.

Ruoff said, &uot;As much as this hurts, and as much as we feel violated, this is nothing compared to what has happened to people in places such as New Orleans and Pakistan.&uot;

Northern Pakistan was the center of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake Saturday.

As of reports Tuesday, more than 25,000 people in Pakistan and India were dead, with warnings of homelessness, cold weather and disease possibly causing more devastation in the quake’s aftermath.

&uot;You can only gauge your own loss as a sort of realization that others have gone through what you’re going through, but (in those two places) it has been to a much greater extent.&uot;

Another reason given for thanks has been the work of the Suffolk Fire and Police departments, according to Ruoff.

&uot;The fire department and police department did an excellent job.

They were professional, courteous, and were genuinely concerned,&uot; Ruoff said.

As for the cleaning and restoration of the church, Thanksgiving is the general, and this point, still hopeful, estimate given by Ruoff for when the church building will be useable again. The bidding process to bring in someone to repair and renovate the damage is going to take some time, Ruoff said.

&uot;That’s why I’m saying I hope it is by Thanksgiving.&uot;

An update on the investigation

Federal authorities are interviewing three people in last week’s church fire.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has identified three &uot;persons of interest&uot; in its investigation into the suspected arson of

St. Mary’s Catholic Church early Friday, said Capt Jim Judkins, spokesman for the Suffolk Fire Department. That agency was called in because the fire was set in a church.

The fire and police departments are conducting parallel investigations, said Lt. Debbie J. George, spokeswoman for the Suffolk Police Department.

&uot;We are sharing information but there have been no arrests,&uot; she said.