Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
A fire, Friday morning, Aug. 2, destroyed the kitchen of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart hall, but it did not disrupt the weekend Mass schedule.
While the fire required rescheduling of a funeral that had been slated for that morning, the rest of the weekend went as planned, according to Msgr. Patrick Golden, rector of the cathedral, where Masses are celebrated at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. on Sunday.
“We also had two weddings scheduled — one Saturday, one Sunday,” Msgr. Golden said. “I contacted the brides and let them know what had happened, and they wanted to go ahead.”
As The Catholic Virginian went to press, a cause and origin specialist had not determined the cause of the fire, which started at 7:26, nor had an estimate on the damage been made, according to Kurt Hickman, claims/risk manager for the Diocese of Richmond.
“The biggest problem,” he said, “is smoke damage.”
A crew from ServPro worked all day Friday and throughout the night in order to remove the smoke from the church. They have been working daily in various parts of the facility, cleaning, removing debris, and moving salvageable items that are being stored until affected areas are prepared for use.
Smoke permeated the cathedral, the sacristy, bathrooms, classrooms, the Catholic Campus Ministry House, which is adjacent to the cathedral, and the basement — the location of the Museum of Virginia Catholic History.
Katie Lemza, assistant archivist for the Diocese of Richmond, was standing in the lobby of the Pastoral Center Friday morning, Aug. 2, when she heard about the fire.
“Mike McGee (the diocese’s chief financial officer) came in and said, ‘There’s smoke coming from the cathedral,’” she recalled.
Lemza grabbed some boxes, ran to her car, and drove to the cathedral.
“It was the longest 15 minutes of my life,” she said of the drive.
Lemza arrived shortly after 9. While the fire was extinguished, she had to wait two hours before being allowed to enter the museum due to concerns about carbon monoxide levels.
Accompanied by two firefighters, who provided light and monitored carbon monoxide levels, she was given 15 minutes to gather items.
“I was grateful for their help. I opened the display cases and collected the relics; none of them were damaged,” she said. “Fortunately, we had already moved the vestments for their annual cleaning.”
The museum, which was undamaged, could re-open sometime in September, according to Lemza.
According to information provided by cathedral staff, the “main priority” will be the repairs done to the VCU Catholic Campus Ministry House. Repairs will include painting, replacement of ceiling tiles, repairs to holes in walls and ceiling, and fixing a broken window — all a result of the fire and its containment.
Editor’s note: As more information becomes available, this story will be updated at www.catholicvirginian.org.