By Bill Parry
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, the anchor for more than 12,000 parishioners in Corona, sustained serious damage after a fire tore through the balcony and spread through the facade and roof early Sunday morning. All eight masses for Sunday were canceled while Monsignor Thomas Healy greeted worshipers outside his church that has been his home for the last 25 years.
“This is their house that just burned down,” the pastor said. The church is closed indefinitely while reconstruction begins. Crews were already removing debris Monday morning.
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Academy next door was also closed Monday because there was no electricity but classes resumed Tuesday. FDNY officials say the two-alarm blaze began with wiring problems in the organ’s pipe tower and took more than 100 firefighters two hours to bring it under control. There were no reported injuries.
Monsignor Healy did not return messages, with a church official saying, “He’s too distraught. He’s trying to stay strong for his parishioners.”
Our Lady of Sorrows Church has been an integral part of the neighborhood since it was built in 1900.
“It’s a sad start to the new year for the people in Corona, but we’re relieved that no one was hurt in the fire,” City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said. “The church is an anchor in our community of immigrants and business owners – it’s a place where so many go for fortitude and direction.”
The church has such a large foreign-born community that Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Our Lady of Sorrows in November when he signed two bills into law that dramatically reduced New York City’s cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on detentions and deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“We’re here to support Father Healy as they repair the damage and hope they can open their doors very soon,” Ferraras said.
A church official said a fund has been set up for donors who wish to help with the cost of reconstruction. Checks can be made out to Our Lady of Sorrows Restoration Fund and mailed to the church at 104-11 37th Avenue. Corona, NY, 11368.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4538.