MADISON, ILLINOIS (KTVI)-A massive fire destroyed an historic Polish church building, but the real story may lie in the things that amazingly survived the flames. The fire was Wednesday in Madison, Illinois. But church members showed Sunday the true church was still there; thanks to support from neighbors, and members said, a sign from heaven.About 20 celebrated mass, Sunday morning, under a canopy next to what was left of the 86 year old church building. It was a larger 'crowd' than most Sundays for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church.
Firefighters suspect a roofing crew sparked the fire to the horror of those who were there when the church went up and came down. Clara Popavachak was married there; confirmed and baptized, too.'There were a lot of memories,' she said, choking back tears.
Helen Gaddy, 92, still lives down the street from the church her father helped found along with Popovchak`s. 'I told my mother, she died at 42, I told her I`ll never leave that church. I`ll always be with you,' Gaddy said. Among the bits and pieces of the building that were left, there was a sign: something that caught fire, but somehow did not completely burn. Hosts left in the communion plate were charred but still there.
And the wonders did not cease. Neighbor, Andy Economy, decided to skip his vacation and instead give his $1000 in vacation money to the church. He`s not a member.'ThankGgod there are some good people out there. I`m speechless. I don`t know what to say. You can see the tears in my eyes,' said church member, Jacek Maslak. 'It`s just going to a good cause. You`re not supposed to ask why things happen. It did. We`ve got to move on,' Economy said.
He bought the land upon which he built his house from the church 15 years ago.
'We have to die sometimes maybe in one location in one place maybe to rise in a new form in a new location,' said Fr. Andrzej Bako, the church pastor.
He said leaders from nearby churches have offered to Sacred Heart members use their building for services, until the members could build a new church of their own. The church's diocesan office in Chicago has launched a fire relief fund, Fr. Bako said.
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