HUBBARD, Ohio (WKBN) – The investigation continues into what caused a fire at a Hubbard church as engineers work to make sure the building is stable.
In a damaged sanctuary, a statue of St. Patrick still stands tall — a symbol of hope following a devastating fire inside St. Patrick’s Church.
“It’s a big loss for us right now,” said Fr. Michael Swierz.
The fire started around 5:45 p.m. Monday.
“There’s a lot of smoke pouring out the backside of the church,” a responding police officer said.
Crews from multiple fire departments in the surrounding area responded.
Eagle Joint Fire District Chief Ron Stanish says investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office haven’t determined a cause, but believe it started in a conference room next to a kitchen.
For parishioners, seeing their beloved parish damaged is emotional.
“It’s a sad day but I guess we have to have hope for our future here,” said parishioner Shirley Libeg.
“It’s hard to accept at the beginning but we have. Our faith is built around Christ, not the building,” said parishioner Tom Libeg.
“The church is the center of their life for young and old. Here, our parish community is very active and very close to their faith and all the ministries that we have in so many different ways. They were really shaken up and it just…that’s what hurt,” Fr. Swierz said.
Fr. Swierz was at the fire Monday night and says there’s one image that stands out vividly in his mind, and that’s firefighters rescuing the Tabernacle from the blaze.
“They put a ladder down and picked up the Tabernacle and crawled across with the Tabernacle — which is very, very heavy — and the Holy Eucharist and also saved some of the statues. So our parish is indebted to the Hubbard Fire Department for that,” Fr. Swierz said.
He said the damage is estimated to cost $4 million to fix. The church is accepting donations to help pay for the damage.
Fr. Swierz and parishioners emphasized that the church is not the building itself, but the community.
The first Mass since the fire will be Wednesday morning at 8:30. For the time being, Masses will be held at the parish center, right next to the church.
“The church isn’t a building,” Fr. Swierz said. “It’s a group of people and wherever we, who love Christ Jesus, wherever we are gathered, that’s the church. And whether it be here for now, or at the parish center, in a battlefield, anywhere that we go, the message is proclaimed and that’s what we cherish — our faith.”