Fire damages St. Ann's in Hornell - Catholic Courier

Fire damages St. Ann’s in Hornell

A fire at Hornell’s St. Ann Church April 22 left extensive damage to the sacristy area and forced Masses to be moved for at least two weeks.
The fire caused at least $50,000 of damage, according to Father James Jaeger, pastor of the Roman Catholic Faith Community of the Canisteo Valley, of which St. Ann’s is a part.
 

According to Father Jaeger, fire officials responded to the blaze shortly after the church alarm sounded and a resident of the church neighborhood alerted authorities some time after 8 p.m. Several area fire departments responded to the call.
 

Father Jaeger said the fire was caused by a charcoal incense briquet that was improperly disposed of following a Benediction at St. Ann’s earlier in the evening. The fire spread from a table and ignited a curtain, damaging the sacristy and causing smoke damage throughout the church.
 

Father Jaeger said April 26 that he wasn’t yet sure how long cleanup efforts would take before Masses could return to St. Ann’s. For now, all regularly scheduled weekday and weekend liturgies have been shifted to St. Ignatius Loyola, another Canisteo Valley church, located at the corner of West Pine and Grand streets. The only alteration to Mass schedules is the addition of a 7 a.m. Sunday Mass; Father Jaeger explained that the extra liturgy is needed because St. Ignatius Loyola’s seating capacity is much more limited than that of St. Ann’s.
 

St. Ann, located at 31 Erie Ave. in downtown Hornell, was dedicated in 1869. Father Jaeger said the fire did not affect the church’s famous ceiling mural of the Jesse Tree, nor the roof, which underwent extensive repair this past fall. St. Ann’s is covered for damages by the Gallagher Bassett Insurance Co. through a diocesan policy.
 

Although it will be some time before the church will return to its original condition, Father Jaeger acknowledged that the fire could have developed into a full-scale tragedy.
 

“One of the firemen said to me that if they did not get there when they did, in another two or three minutes the whole church, the entire roof, everything would have been lost. It would have been a terrible disaster. I’m very thankful, obviously, that no one got hurt. ‚Ķ The hand of God kept the fire to that small section. I really believe that God was with us,” said the pastor, who returned to Hornell that evening from Rochester, where he was attending the diocesan priests’ convocation.
 

Father Jaeger also paid tribute to the Hornell community, saying, “I can’t say enough about the fire chief, the police chief and the personnel.” He added that he brought a fruit basket to the person who called in the fire, and added that Protestant leaders in the Hornell area have contacted him to offer their support.
 

Mercy Sister Dolores Ann Stein, principal of St. Ann’s School, said her students displayed empathy as well. She said a fourth-grade girl brought in $6.75 to go toward church repairs, and that a 4-year-old, when learning of the fire, wanted to know, “God isn’t hurt, is he? Is God all right?”
 

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