Catholic Church in Raleigh still closed after tragedy

When firefighters arrived at St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, they found an SUV that had crashed into the front of the church as well as a fire in the building. (WTVD Photo/Tommy Harris)

When firefighters arrived at St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, they found an SUV that had crashed into the front of the church as well as a fire in the building. (WTVD Photo/Tommy Harris)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — It was almost a month ago that a 20-year-old Raleigh man set his home on fire, and then drove to St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, crashed his car into the building, set fire to the sanctuary, and fatally shot himself.

It was a tragedy on a couple of levels. Not only was a life lost that day, but a congregation also lost their place to worship.

Still, in the wake of all of this, a silver lining has emerged as the church has come together in a new location.

“We want to give very deep thanks and show our gratitude to our parishioner, Joseph Smolensky, the manager of this funeral home, for allowing us to use this beautiful chapel for our masses,” said Father Rob Staley.

Staley is deeply appreciative of having a temporary place to worship inside north Raleigh’s Renaissance Funeral Home. The offer was needed following the horrible events of January 12, when a young man committed suicide after first setting the church on fire.

“There was very significant burn damage to the entire interior sanctuary of the church; there was also smoke damage to the social hall and office area,” Father Staley said.

As for how long they might be using these facilities, they say probably another month and then they can move into their reception hall, which was not as badly damaged. However, it could take up to a year to fully repair the rest of their sanctuary.

Nevertheless, St. Luke’s parishioners are not letting that get them down.

“I thought it was really generous of them to allow us to come here. We’ve been here a couple times, and I thought it was nice. It’s big too, so it fits everybody,” said church member Sarah Benz.

Admittedly, most services end up being standing room only, but members of the church see that as a positive sign.

“That’s wonderful, to see that, that the people have not let this tragedy get in the way of their worship of God and coming together to build each other up,” said church member Tammy Huffman.

That helps many in the church community come to terms with the tragedy that happened.

“Everybody’s upbeat, and the Father is wonderful, all he does is want to pray for the family and what happened. It was certainly horrible and a tragedy, but it’s always said in a positive way, not in a negative way, and that’s what church is about to me,” said church member Sue Benz.

Source: WTVD

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