FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. (CNS) — After a fire destroyed Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Franklin Lakes in the early hours of Dec. 11, the suspected arsonist was arrested. He was receiving burn treatment at a local hospital prior to his court hearing.
“We are thankful for the efforts of the police, firefighters and public safety workers who immediately responded to calls and battled the blaze during frigid conditions to try and save Most Blessed Sacrament Church,” said a Dec. 12 statement from the Newark Archdiocese.
James Mayers, a 26-year-old local resident, was arrested at the scene of the fire that had been set with a cigarette lighter and gasoline. He was charged with first-degree aggravated arson and third-degree burglary, according to a report by NJ.com, a digital news content provider and website in New Jersey.
The archdiocesan statement said: “We are moving forward to ensure parish life continues and we are currently identifying alternative sites for Masses, liturgies and parish activities. We ask everyone to please pray for all who have been affected by this incident.”
Parishioners gathered outside the charred remains of the church Dec. 12 remembering the importance the nearly 60-year-old parish had for many of them.
“Every family memory is wrapped up in that church,” Diann Isola, a parish member for more than 50 years, told NJ.com. “It’s a very sad day.”
Isola and her husband, who were married at the church 30 years ago, said it was beautiful. “It’s just a shame — an absolute shame,” she said about the fire.
The parish, which serves more than 2,000 families, was founded in 1960 by the Archdiocese of Newark.
The adjacent parish school, the Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament, was not harmed by the fire, but the school was closed Dec. 11.
Franklin Lakes Mayor Frank Bivona said the church fire affects “more than parishioners,” but that the congregation will “rise from the ashes, stronger than ever.”
“I think the best thing we can all do right now is to say a prayer for them,” he said in an interview. “Our focus will be on helping Most Blessed Sacrament, and its parishioners, get back on their feet.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing 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.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103