Two months before back to normal after fire at Oshawa's St. Philip the Apostle

  • January 8, 2010
{mosimage}OSHAWA, Ont. - It could be at least two months before parishioners of St. Philip the Apostle parish in Oshawa celebrate Mass in their church after a fire broke out on Christmas Day.

Fr. Callistus St. Louis, pastor of St. Philip’s, awoke to the church’s fire alarm and the smell of smoke at 5 a.m., Dec. 25. The rectory is attached to the church and the smoke was spreading into his residence. St. Louis called the fire department and escaped with mild smoke inhalation.

St. Louis spent the following week at the rectory of Oshawa’s Holy Cross Church, but moved back to St. Philip’s rectory in early January. He said regular weekend Masses would be offered in the auditorium of the school next door to the damaged church beginning Jan. 9.

Durham Regional Police suspect arson as several of the church windows were broken and statues outside were damaged.

St. Louis said the alleged arsonists entered through a basement window leading into the hall’s pantry and started the fire at three different points — one in the creche of the Nativity scene by the lower altar, one in the Christmas tree display on the left of the church below a statue of the Sacred Heart and a third on the lower altar. He said the roof was spared because the Nativity scene usually reaches much higher but he had asked parishioners this year to keep it to a maximum height of just over a metre.

“Thank God they didn’t make it big this year, otherwise we would have lost the roof,” he said.

The Sacred Heart statue by the Christmas trees was badly damaged, he said, and the statue of the Blessed Mother above the lower altar was destroyed.

“It could have been destroyed by the fire but the fact that it was in bits and pieces I got the impression it was smashed as well,” he said, explaining that a statue of the Blessed Mother outside the church was smashed to pieces the same night.

David Finnegan, director of planning, properties and housing for the archdiocese of Toronto, said the fire did not damage the exterior of the church, but the interior did suffer severe smoke and water damage.

“The fire was in the sanctuary area and there’s some fire damage in the main worship area. But there is mostly smoke damage and water damage from the fire department putting the fire out,” Finnegan said. “It’s mostly internal damage to the main worship space and some damage to the hall downstairs and smoke damage in the rectory.”

Insurance should cover the cost of repairs, Finnegan said, but he could not be certain until a full assessment of the damage is completed.

The church was built in the 1960s and seats approximately 320 people.

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