The beautiful picturesque Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, suffered major damage after a lightning strike caused a fire Friday night in the bell tower.
Nobody was injured but the chapel is closed indefinitely. “We were very fortunate that the damage was limited to the bell tower,” Barry Titler, Director of Public Safety at Mount St. Mary’s, told The Cardinal Newman Society. “We could’ve lost the whole chapel.”
Titler said that the fire caused at least $600,000 in damage and likely more after smoke and water damage is factored in. The blaze, the university said, took about 150,000 gallons to extinguish completely.
The IC chapel which opened its doors in 1910 is considered the focal point of the campus and was just rededicated two years ago after a long renovation which included a new roof, a new organ, lighting, a new sound system, new marble flooring, and restored pews.
Titler said he was thankful the fire occurred during the summer when there were fewer students on campus. In fact, it was a student who also works as a dispatcher for the public safety department who called in the emergency.
Masses on campus aren’t often held at the IC Chapel during the summer due to the lack of people on campus so the mass schedule should continue unaffected in one of the six other chapels on the faithful Catholic college’s campus during the summer.
University spokesperson Christian Kendzierski told The Frederick News Post that the chapel was scheduled to have a wedding mass on Saturday morning. The university hastily worked with the alumnus to have the mass moved. In fact, the couple had just left the chapel after their wedding rehearsal Friday night right before the storm started.
So severe was the storm that Titler said there were at least five lightning strikes on campus that night.
Engineers were expected on campus today to ascertain the full extent of the damage and begin mapping out a schedule for repairs.
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