Clean up and abatement efforts at St. Mary Church in Melrose are well underway after the March 11 fire.
The church’s high altar and statues were destroyed by the fire, according to Carol Moorman, a longtime St. Mary’s parishioner and the church’s appointed spokesperson. Two smaller side altars remain intact. The large tabernacle and a smaller tabernacle from the high altar were rescued as well as relics stored under the altar.
Damage was done to the pipe organ. The main body of the church including the pews, Stations of the Cross and Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel and statue are smoke damaged. Some stained glass windows sustained slight heat damage.
The basement was untouched by the fire but did suffer water damage.
While no official announcements have been made, salvageable items like the pews have been removed and stored off site, Moorman said. The next phase of the restoration process will include a structural analysis, the hiring of an architect and developing a plan for possible reconstruction.
“While we miss worshiping in our church, we are grateful to St. John the Baptist [in Meire Grove] parishioners for allowing us to use their church, not only for weekend Masses but for funerals, as we have high hopes of returning back to our home church,” Moorman said.
“They have been so helpful with things like showing our sacristans, eucharistic ministers, lectors and ushers where things are,” she said.
Being part of a cluster parish arrangement with St. John’s, St. Andrew in Greenwald and St. Michael in Spring Hill gives St. Mary’s parishioners several options for attending Mass, she said. Parishioners can also attend Mass at other area churches in Grey Eagle, Sauk Centre, Freeport, St. Rosa and New Munich.
“We truly are one in faith and faith communities coming together,” said Moorman, adding that she is thankful for what she calls “some degree of normalcy.”
“Each Sunday since the fire I’ve gone to church at St. John the Baptist Church and it’s nice to see the familiar faces of fellow parishioners, intermingled with cluster parishioners, who attend the 8 a.m. Mass. People are waving, much like we greet one another at St. Mary’s. The people who sat in front of us and in back of us at St. Mary’s continue to do so at St. John’s. Young children continue to bring their gifts to the altar, just like at St. Mary’s.”
Moorman said a new ramp was installed on the south side of St. John the Baptist Church making access into the church easier, especially for those who used the elevator at St. Mary’s.
Currently, weekday Masses are held in St. Mary’s School gym in Melrose, with weekend Masses at 5 p.m., Saturdays, and 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and a Spanish Mass at 12:30 p.m. Sundays at St. John the Baptist Church in Meire Grove.
The cause of the March 11 fire is still being investigated.