Statement on Fire at St. Mary Magdalene

Last night at 11pm the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene was ravaged by fire. The cause of the fire is unknown.

The parish was founded in 1913 and the present church was built in 1927. Located in the Springfield Gardens section of Queens, the parish serves over 400 congregants. All religious artifacts were destroyed by the fire.

“We are all deeply saddened by the destruction of Saint Mary Magdalene” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio “at the same time we know that the Church is not simply an edifice but rather the community of believers gathered. Fire may be able to destroy a church building but it can never destroy the Church.”

The parish which serves primarily the African-American and Caribbean Community is also home to the Martin de Porres School for children with special needs conducted by the Christian Brothers. Sunday Masses will temporarily be held in the school auditorium which is located on 137th Avenue between 218th and 219th Streets.

In addition to the religious objects, all the musical instruments for the Saint Martin de Porres School and the parish were destroyed. Sister Maryellen Kane, CSJ, the Parish Coordinator, reflecting on the fire said “Saint Mary Magdalene is a very special community; our Gospel Choir is dynamic and the people are faith filled. We may no longer have a Church building or instruments to make music but together our voices will continue to sing of the Glory of God.”

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was especially grateful to the firefighters who were on the scene at St. Mary Magdalene. “I am so impressed but should not be surprised that our firefighters would have the presence of mind and place themselves at risk to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the Church” Roman Catholics believe that at the moment of consecration the Bread and Wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. Bishop DiMarzio continued “When I heard of the fire, my first thoughts were if anyone was injured and of the Blessed Sacrament. It is a testament to New York’s bravest that they are eager to protecting human life but also so respectful of deeply held religious convictions.”

A Mass will be held on Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 11am in the School Auditorium. The celebrant of the Mass will be Bishop Frank Caggiano, Vicar General of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn