ST. ANTHONY - June 22 is a day that most St. Anthony residents will never forget. That day especially sits heavy on the hearts of nearly 100 members of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
It was on that day in 2007 that parishioners lost their 100-year-old church to a blaze that consumed the building and burned it to the ground after lightning hit the structure.
But now, five years after that tragic night, the memory of Sacred Heart lives on through the stories and the monument that sits at the top of the stairs that once led people into the church.
T-R PHOTO BY LUKE STALZER
The stairs that once led to the front doors of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in St. Anthony now lead to a memorial built for the church after a fire consumed the building on June 22, 2007 after a lightning strike. The memorial features a plaque telling the church’s century-old history and pieces of the debris from the building’s remains set in the memorial. Former members of the church are now looking for funds to add park benches to the memorial site.
St. Anthony resident Mary Bartine served as the head of the church's council at the time of the fire and said that she remembers that night vividly.
"We had people living in the rectory next door to the church," she said. "They saw the lightning strike out their window on to the church."
Next thing Bartine knew, there were seven different fire departments from around the area battling the blaze. She said that it was difficult to see the building go, but she was thankful that no lives were lost.
"It was a very difficult time to see the 100-year-old building burn to the ground," she said.
However, firefighters were able to save the bell that served as a church staple and a few other items inside.
After the fire, parishioners were forced to find a new church because building another church wouldn't have been realistic, but Bartine said that there was still money in the church account and they weren't sure what to do with it.
"We knew that we wanted something to remember the church by," she said. "We had the funds available and started planning a memorial."
Bartine said members of the church then called on local bricklayer Todd Rogers, of rural State Center, and he didn't hesitate in starting the design process of a memorial.
"We started the building in July of 2010 and finished in early August," Rogers said. "It was kind of a weekend project."
Rogers wasn't a member of Sacred Heart, but he felt that helping the church out was important.
"I was helping lay brick at a guy's house when they asked me and I couldn't say no," Rogers said.
Former parishioner John Witte of St. Anthony maintains the site and said that the memorial is perfect for the once bustling church.
"I just want it to look good out of respect for the church," Witte said. "It's a great way to remember the church."
The memorial features a brief write-up about the history of the century-old building along with pieces of the burned debris set in and landscaping around the monument. There are now plans to expand the memorial and add park benches and Witte said that he is looking for support.
Anyone interested in donating, can call Witte at 641-751-9714.
Bartine said that the five years have been hard, but each of the parishioners has had to move on and find another church to call home.
"I think it's important for people to know that although we lost our church to this fire, we haven't lost our faith," Bartine said.