A two-alarm fire may have destroyed the rectory at St. Mary Refuge of Sinners Parish in Cambridge, Md., on Oct. 12, but the parish will continue business as usual, the pastor said Tuesday.
“The church is fine, the parish hall is fine,” said Father Bill Lawler, who has led the Eastern Shore congregation for 11 years. “All of that is going to continue as normal. We’ll have to set up some temporary office space in order to pay bills and payroll and those kinds of essential things.”
Daily Mass has been canceled for the remainder of this week.
The fire, which was first reported shortly after 6 a.m. Monday, left the building a total loss. Joseph Corsini, the chief financial officer for the diocese, said insurance will pay for full replacement costs. The value of the house, which was 3,240 square feet, could be as high as $380,000, he said, but the insurance will meet whatever the final price is to rebuild its replica.
Father Lawler was not home when the blaze broke out. He spent Sunday night in Delaware with relatives and received a phone call Monday morning from the parish secretary who asked if he was OK, unaware that the priest had not been home. He was about an hour from Cambridge at the time. The fire’s origin was likely electrical, he said.
“It may have started in the office in the front of the building. It’s possible there was a short in a device, computers and copiers and fax machines that every office has to have nowadays,” he said.
“I haven’t seen any official report from the fire marshal yet.”
All the parish records were in the 55-year-old rectory, and Father Lawler had yet to determine what was lost.
“Quite a bit is also on microfilm. It’s probably the last five or 10 years we have to recover,” he said.
Father Lawler said he will be looking for an apartment in Cambridge, although he has been offered a place to live by Father James Nash, the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in nearby Easton, Md. He expects it to be a year or possibly two before there is a new rectory on the parish grounds.
One bit of good news that emerged in the fire’s aftermath is that Father Lawler’s cat, Señor Gato, was able to escape the building through a cat door. He was found at the church, where, according to the pastor, he spends a lot of time.