SALTILLO – An early morning fire that destroyed St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on Sunday is believed to have been an accident.
The fire was reported to E-911 by travelers who saw the flames from nearby U.S. 45 just at 4:41 a.m.
The Rev. Tom Lalor, pastor of St. Thomas and St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo, was notified about 6 a.m. and was at the fire scene later Sunday morning as firefighters sifted through the rubble and doused the smoking embers.
Lalor said that after talking with local and state fire officials, “It appears it’s an accident.”
The brick church at 612 Road 683 was built in 1965 and replaced a wooden structure from the 1920s, according to parishioner Joe Barrett.
His ancestors donated the land on which the church and adjoining cemetery sit.
Barrett and few dozen other people were at the site, many of them retrieving charred artifacts such as a Latin bible and the church’s holy water font.
Firefighters left the scene at 9:40 a.m.
The small church usually attracted 65-70 people to its Saturday night Mass, the only service of the week.
Lalor said it will be up to the parish and the Diocese of Jackson to decide whether the church will be rebuilt. In the meantime, he said, the regular Saturday Mass schedule will be observed at the parish hall next door.
Despite the loss of the building and uncertainty about a new church, Lalor was confident that the parish would rebound.
“People here will rise to the occasion,” he said.
Added Jimmy Hauss, another parishioner, “Faith is stronger than a building.”
No one was injured by the blaze or putting it out.
NEMS Daily Journal