Local

Weymouth church destroyed by fire

byChristine Tolfree
6/17/2005

Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth was almost completely destroyed when a seven-alarm fire ripped through the 134-year-old building on the evening of June 9. According to the State Fire Marshall’s Office the cause of the fire was a malfunctioning refrigerator in the basement of the church.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley celebrated Mass in the auditorium of the parish school Sunday June 12. Prior to the Mass the archbishop toured the remains of the church. At one point the archbishop paused to kiss the cross that had stood atop the church’s steeple but survived the flames.

"I think he was the first call that we received, reaching out to us in care and concern, and today we see here with us, our archbishop, Archbishop Seán," said Sacred Heart pastor, Father Daniel J. Riley at the opening of the Mass. "He asked if he could come and be with us," he said.

Beginning his homily Archbishop O’Malley told the congregation, “You have a wonderful pastor. You have great priests in your parish,” said the archbishop.

"I want you to work with them, with your parish council and finance council, to come up with a plan for the future of Sacred Heart Parish, and do what is best to use the resources that you have, and will have, and to be able to answer all of the needs of all of the parish communities," he continued.

Archbishop O’Malley said it was too early to speak about details of that plan.

The archbishop went on to speak about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an important symbol of the Catholic faith.

"It reminds us that our God loves us so much that He wanted to love us with a human heart. He wanted to be part of our family so that our friendship with God could be a human friendship," he said.

Christians must respond to God’s love by loving others as He loves us, he added.

"We are called to give our lives for each other," he said. "We are called to live that bond of the Sacred Heart, and that's what's going to get us through all of the problems we face in our parish, in our Church."

The archbishop also performed a baptism during the Mass.

"We have the great joy of initiating a new child, a new member of this faith community -- how symbolic that in the face of destruction, tragedy and crisis that there is new life, that there is a new disciple. We rejoice," he said.

Father Riley again addressed the congregation before the final blessing.

"We suffered a really terrible loss with our church building being burnt down," he said. "This was one of the most beautiful church buildings around."

Father Riley said he was on retreat when he heard the news of the fire. Calling from his cell phone he said his first question was “Is anybody hurt?”

"What a shock," he said. "Yet, from the very beginning, I honestly had this feeling of total and complete confidence that it was going to be okay."

He said he felt the parish would get through this difficult time because parishioners were so willing to help. He told the story of an eighth grader who had been awarded a $500 scholarship who offered to give it back in order to rebuild the church.

"The people here are so friendly," he said.

Father Riley said one young child asked him, “Where’s God going to live now?”

"I told her we've got God in our auditorium, and the firefighters risked their health, dried off the Blessed Sacrament, walked back and polished it up," he said gesturing towards the tabernacle that was retrieved from the ruins of the church, "God is with us."