ROSEDALE — Four years after a fire tore through their sanctuary, forcing them to attend Mass elsewhere while repairs were taking place, hundreds of parishioners gathered at St. Pius X Church on Sunday, March 26, to mark the rededication of their newly rebuilt church.
“It looks beautiful!” parishioner Edwina Hall said as she entered the building and looked around. “The fire was really terrible. But today, I feel like Jesus is here with us. This is a new day for our church.”
The two-alarm fire, which took place on June 16, 2019, heavily damaged the sanctuary and the sacristy to the point where both had to be rebuilt. More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene. No one was inside the church when the fire began, but two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze.
The fire, which started in an area behind the altar, was ruled accidental by FDNY investigators.
Bishop Robert Brennan celebrated the March 26 Mass, anointing the new altar with oil and telling the parishioners that “God never leaves us and you never left God. You continued to gather as a community. The spirit of God continued to dwell in this community.”
During the repairs, parishioners attended Mass in the rectory basement and in the cafeteria of Success Academy, formerly St. Pius X School, located across the street from the church.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, other parishes within the Diocese of Brooklyn came to the rescue of St. Pius X Church by donating priestly vestments, the Eucharist, and sacramental wine.
Bishop Brennan was serving in the Diocese of Columbus in Ohio during the time the blaze happened and the early rebuilding effort began, “so my recollection of it is from history and from afar.” Still, he recalled that his heart was heavy for the parishioners. “To lose something, it gets you right in the gut,” he added.
The church underwent a $2.4 million renovation that included the construction of a new sanctuary, sacristy, and baptismal font, along with new interior walls and new flooring. Most of the costs were covered by insurance, said Father Jean-Miguel Auguste, the pastor.
Many congregants said they looked at the rededication Mass as the dawn of a new era for St. Pius X Church. “It feels like we’re starting anew,” said Vivian Charles, who has been a parishioner for 27 years.
Even former parishioners came back to their old neighborhood of Rosedale to admire the church’s new look.
Charlie Collora, who grew up worshiping in St. Pius X, served as an altar boy and attended the church’s school and now lives in Rockville Centre said, “It was very upsetting when the church went on fire. So when I heard about the Mass today, I had to come back. I wanted to see what it looked like,” he explained. “It’s home.”
Father Auguste was thrilled to welcome everyone back. “It’s nice to have all of us be able to gather all together as a family again,” he said.