Fire Destroys Church, But Not Parishioners’ Spirit

SPRINGFIELD GARDENS, N.Y. – A community’s spirit remains strong after a fire destroyed a Queens church that was built in the early 1900s, CBS 2’s John Metaxas reports.

Flames left the St. Mary Magdalene Church in ruins on Saturday morning in Springfield Gardens, Queens.

The wooden frame to the building and its wooden pews provided plenty to burn as the fire tore through the church overnight, only leaving its memories behind for its parishioners.

“I’m so upset. I’ve been coming here 40 years. I sang in the choir,” Sandra Chase said.

The loss left Tene Taylor speechless.

“I don’t know what to say. The church has been here since I’ve been born,” Taylor said.

Despite the valiant efforts of about 100 firefighters from 20 units, it took just a couple of hours for the flames to consume the structure.

Only a few stained glass windows remained intact.

The fire also destroyed one of the church’s most cherished possessions—a unique statue of the risen Christ behind the altar.

“I heard the risen Christ was burned. It was a black Jesus. A full life size. It was very unique to this church,” Chase said.

The church has tended the neighborhood for nearly a hundred years, and those in the predominantly African and Caribbean-American community took solace in the fact that no one was hurt.

“We do realize it was only a building. We are the church. We will continue to worship,” Sister Mary Ellen Kane said.

The parishioners agreed. The church will endure.

“We’re going to be here. We’re going to be here. Somehow,” Chase said.

The building may be gone, but the community here is intact, and they’re vowing to rebuild.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

More from John Metaxas
  • Sofia Sammarco Striffler

    I went to that church and school also. So sad to know it burned. I hopei it will be rebuilt beautifully.

  • Kate Sculti, Oaklandj, CA

    I just learned about the loss of St Mary Magdalene church today. I am so very sad. That church, the physical place with the smells of incense, the candles, the statues, stations of the cross, the stained glass, music, silence, all of it helped to mold my spirituality and my relationship with the Divine as a child.
    It will forever live in my memory, heart and soul.

  • davis

    dang that church got burn up i feel bad for you guys

  • Karen Thomas

    I am a member of the church. My daughters did their commuion there and my eldest did her confirmation there. No matter how long I stayed away form the church when I returned it was as if I never left. I Love that church

  • Donald Thomas

    I went to that school and church for over twelve years. My six brothers and sister attended Easter Sunday throughout the sixties and seventies. We looked sharp. In fact, most Easters we were so sharp, we looked like the Temptations meet the Supremes. Lot of good memories there!!

  • Sister Adele Myers, OP

    Sad news. I went to school there – way back in the 30s – and have many fond memories of St. Mary Magdalene. I pray for all affected by this terrible tragedy!

  • cluelessinky

    Not many good memories, I got more than my fair share of beatings at the grammar school in the 50’s.

  • M. Lewis

    It’s true the people are the church but this is very tragic. My parents were married in the church rectory 60 years ago. I was married in St. Mary Magdalene Church 24 years ago. I remember well the standing room only crowds for the sermons of Father Maki in the late 60’s, very early 70’s. I remember a packed church even in the summer heat (the church was not air-conditioned until 1988 or so). My brother still lives in the parish. The church had beautiful architecture, not like the “cookie-cutter” designs of churches today. I remember when the church switched to electronic devotion candles instead of those with flames to enhance fire safety more than twenty years ago when the church was remodeled. What a shame.

  • Carolyn G

    I attended that churchh as a child, went to the school when it was opened, was baptized there, received holy communion and confirmation there. I remember Father Dundon, Father Brady, father Macky and a few others. I sang on the choir and was in a youth group, Care. I moved away many years ago but hearing of the fire still hurts my heart. I have so many memories at St. Marys church.


    God is in control. Church is the people. So long as the people are intact and remian united the building will come up well in no distant time. What has happened has happened.Lets think of what to do to towards rebuilding the church and put the past behind us

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