PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The faithful at a church in New Jersey were feeling fortunate Friday after a Holy Week disaster.
As CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported, part of the ceiling collapsed Thursday at Saint Anthony of Padua church on Myrtle Avenue in Passaic.
Church officials said they noticed a small bubble on the ceiling on Friday, but said they figured it was merely water damage.
Pictures posted by the church on Facebook show ceiling panels and splintered wood on empty pews.
“It was heartbreaking,” added parishioner Josephine Chichi. “I was baptized here; communion; confirmation; all my sacraments were here.”
The collapse at 10 a.m. Thursday happened when the sanctuary was vacant except for one cleaning lady.
“She heard a noise like the ceiling was cracking, and then she ran away from there,” said the Rev. Edgar Rivera.
Just hours later, the church pews would have been packed with people attending evening mass. Rivera said he does not even want to think about what could have happened.
“We’d be dead. It would be a tragedy,” he said.
That this happened during Holy Week is all the more disconcerting to the faithful.
“It’s just so very sad,” a parishioner said.
And while the church is still in need of extensive repair, it has not broken the spirit of its congregation.
The Stations of the Cross procession was held outside the church for Good Friday, while upcoming services and mass – including on Easter Sunday – will be held in the parish gym across the street.
There is no telling when the church will reopen, what it will cost to fix, or what caused the collapse.
But the heartbeat of the holiday and the resolve of the community is strong. The congregation of 1,300 families said it will overcome.
“We’ll rebuild again,” a parishioner said.
The Record reports there is concern that insurance might not cover the repairs, so parishioners are raising money on the church’s website.
The red brick church is nearly a century old, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
Masses are being held across the street in the church’s gymnasium for now.