MELROSE, Minn. (CNS) — Bishop Donald J. Kettler of St. Cloud said he hoped a juvenile confessing to intentionally setting a fire that damaged the historic St. Mary’s Church in Melrose will help in the “healing process” for parishioners still coping with the tragedy.
The juvenile was charged with arson in the first degree, according to a June 20 news release from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office. The juvenile was 13 at the time of the offense.
The Stearns County Juvenile Court proceedings are by law confidential because of the juvenile’s age at the time of the offense. No further information about those proceedings can or will be released, the statement said.
New reports said that an early morning fire March 14, 2016, damaged about 30 percent of the 118-year-old Romanesque Revival-style church. The main altar, handmade in Germany, was destroyed. The church, dedicated in 1899, is a landmark in Melrose, which is about 100 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.
Bishop Kettler said he is thankful for the persistence and commitment of the local, state and federal authorities who investigated this arson case.
“I hope this news can be another step in the healing process for the people of St. Mary’s Church in Melrose,” Bishop Kettler said in a statement. “I and the people of our diocese have been praying for the Melrose community since the time of the fire, and we will continue to offer whatever support they need as they work to build a new church and plan for the future.”
He also asked for prayers from the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud.
“I also will be praying for the youth who was charged and for their family,” he said. “I hope they, too, receive the help they need. As Christians, we are committed to justice, but justice must always be tempered by mercy, and it must never abandon hope for a person’s reform.”
Authorities stated publicly for the first time in May 2016 that they believed the fire was “incendiary,” or “intentionally set.”
The Melrose community has been divided over whether to rebuild or restore the church since the fire.
Initially, the parish submitted a proposal to the St. Cloud Diocesan Building Commission for full restoration of the existing structure, which was rejected. About 450 people gathered in February of this year at Melrose High School to see a proposal for a new church. An additional 250 people tuned in to the live video stream through the parish’s website.
The parish created a church-building team to move the plans forward for a new building which would be located near the current church site and school. A delegation from St Mary’s presented a proposal June 12 for the new worship space and facilities to the Diocesan Building Commission, according to the church’s website oneinfaith.org.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103