Monday, January 4, 2010

Fire at Holy Ghost Prep causes $1M in damage

As an alumnus of Holy Ghost Preparatory School this is very sad news. The Chapel of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is 100 years old and was built in part with funds provided by St. Katherine Drexel herself, as the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, at least then, had similar charisms. If not for the archaic rules of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia the Chapel would have held the weddings of nearly every graduate. A beautiful worship space where even the most hard core atheist would hear the word of God.
I'm sure insurance money will help them to rebuild but the stained glass in the Chapel is irreplacable. From the pictures it would seem that the seven side chapels, where 100 years worth of private masses were celebrated by the Holy Ghost Fathers... were destroyed as well.

So why we're sad for the loss the Chapel will be rebuilt, and the fire was contained and no one was hurt -- due to the quick efforts of the Bensalem Fire Department. It could have been much worse.

Cor unum et anima una.

Holy Ghost fire causes $1M in damage

Bucks County Courier Times

The fire was sparked by a roofer's torch. Firefighters had to break more than a dozen stained-glass windows while battling the blaze.

A fire started by a roofer's torch caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage to the chapel at Holy Ghost Preparatory School Monday afternoon.

School was not in session and none of the school's 518 students were on the property.

Volunteer firefighters from seven Lower Bucks companies and the Bensalem Rescue Squad were called to the school off Route 13 about 1:55 p.m., Ruggiero said. The fire was brought under control at 2:31 p.m., according to the Bucks County Radio Room. One volunteer firefighter was slightly hurt, complaining of a thumb injury, said Cornwells Fire Co. Chief Joe Ruggiero.

"When I pulled up, there was smoke coming from the roof and three roofers up there working," Ruggiero said.

Water filled the parking lot, and firefighters had to contend with biting wind while fighting the fire.

Fire police closed a portion of Route 13 in Bensalem to traffic as more than a dozen fire trucks rushed to the scene.

Bensalem Fire Marshal Jay Scanlon said the fire was started by roofers using a torch while spreading asphalt on the flat church roof. Roofing trucks at the scene had the name Russell Roofing on the doors. Russell Roofing is located in Oreland, Montgomery County. The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching the roofing company for comment Monday evening.

Scanlon said the roofers had used a torch about 45 minutes before they called the fire company.

Scanlon said his damage estimate is due, in part, to at least a dozen expensive stained glass windows that were broken while firefighters battled the blaze.

One parent, whose husband and son graduated from Holy Ghost, stood shivering on Route 13 in the strong, biting winds and was visibly upset about the fire.

Advertisement "It's a great school. This fire is unbelievable. I feel so bad for Father Jeff and the staff. My husband and son got a great education here. I hope the building can be repaired," said Beverly Viscusi.

The school celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009, according to signs hanging in front of the school.

The Rev. Jeff Duaime, who runs the school, is upset about the fire and damage to the 100-year-old stained glass, but praised firefighters and said he has used Russell Roofing for other previous repairs and was pleased with the work.

"I am not sure of what type of material is on the flat roof, but the roofers were using tar at the time of the fire," Duaime said. "The fire departments did a good job. They deserve a lot of credit.

"It's hard to say if there is $1 million in damage, but when I saw the broken stained glass, well, I just can't say for sure. But no one got hurt and we are grateful for that," he said.

Duaime said 518 students attend the school and that the damaged chapel is used for daily Mass for the students.

He added that the damage was mostly confined to the main altar and seven side altars in the chapel, known as Chapel of the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Duaime said the building was used as a seminary dating to 1897, until it became a chapel.

He said the chapel is fully insured, but it was unknown how soon repairs could be made. For now, Mass will be held in a former chapel near the main residence on school property.

The fire does not affect the Jack Schott Holiday Tournament basketball game scheduled for today. The game will be played, said school athletic director Jim Stewart.

I meant to post this earlier but couldn't find it. It is the commencement address at HGP last year from Mary Lou Quinlan, the founder and CEO of Just Ask a Woman, the leading women's marketing company in the U.S. She is an a alumna of Cardinal Dougherty High School and Saint Joseph's University.

Thank you so much for the honor of speaking at this wonderful occasion. And for breaking a nearly 50 year tradition. You let a Dougherty girl in.

It’s an honor for me to be part of your big day.

As Tony mentioned, I’ve got a lot of Holy Ghost connections…and a lot of love and affection for this school, starting with my husband Joe who’s an alum. ..and both of my brothers in law. But the first Joe Quinlan to enter the school was actually back in the fall of 1911 when it was called Holy Ghost Apostolic College. He was "my" Joe Quinlan's great uncle, Father Joe Quinlan. He had a distinguished career as a Spiritan, both at the motherhouse when it was in well as in the overseas missions.

Father Joe was buried some 40 years ago just 100 yards from here...and he's been joined in recent years by many of the priests whom he recruited into the order when he served here, first as teacher and then as rector. Like Joe’s mentor and our friend, Father Henry Brown, a wise and wonderful priest who married us 30 years ago.

Just as Mr. Chapman never left Holy Ghost, my husband Joe, in his own way, never left either. He’s loyal to you in every way. Today I want to say thank you, Holy Ghost for helping Joe be the man he is, someone I am so lucky to have in my life, and to his mom and Dad, Virginia and Tom Quinlan who sacrificed to send him here. They’re all here today.

And, thank you, Tony… a great leader, a great friend, as is his wife, Jane… and daughter Katie.

But this day is about you, the graduates of the class of 2009. Right now, I know you’re excited to be moving on but you might also be feeling a little sad. No wonder. You’ve got a lot of leave-taking ahead of you. Your family, your friends, your school.
But the good news, like Joe and Mr. Chapman, you can always come home. Because Holy Ghost is now part of you. And it’s a legacy that you’ll carry the rest of your life.

(Where’s Steve Chapman?) Your mom Donna Chapman, told me she remembers dropping you off for Freshman Orientation and you were kind of shy, and when she left, she sat out in the parking lot, praying, “Please let him make a friend…not expecting a bunch, just even one.” (How things have changed!) She told me, “Steve’s an only child but he has many brothers.” For all of you, Holy Ghost is the home where you all found brothers for life. A brotherhood united for good.

Home is the place that gives you roots and wings and with these awards and diplomas you’ve got the foundation and you are set to fly.

There are three thoughts I’d like to share with you today. And Joe Knowles, the Michael Phelps of medal winners over there, when I asked him for guidance for this speech, said “We’re pretty high brow students, so don’t be corny or cliché!” Well, these are clichés I believe in and live by, so bear with me, Joe.

The first relates to your roots. Remember Where You Came From.

This class is headed to dozens of colleges and universities all over this country…big shout out to Ted Grabowski! Some are going far away, some are staying closer to home. I know that seven of you are going to City Avenue to attend my alma mater, Saint Joseph’s University here in Philadelphia…the Hawk will never die!)

But no matter where you go, someday, you may find yourself, with families of your own and nice cars and fancy houses in a big job, with a big paycheck ….and you may look at yourself and say, “Hey, look what I did!”

And you might forget how you got to be who you are. I invite you to think about that now. Holy Ghost has its fingerprints all over you. (for the entire address click here)

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