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January 25, 2014

FINDING FORGIVENESS AFTER THE FLAMES

Damage to church hall estimated at $150K

LAWRENCE — The Rev. Chris Casey says he forgives the people who set a fire inside the former Our Lady of Good Counsel School last weekend which disrupted religious education classes and meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

“That’s what we were taught by Jesus, to be forgiving,” Casey said yesterday. “God forgives us in the same way we forgive. It doesn’t mean we don’t want justice, but the bigger picture is that we care for their salvation.”

The classes and meetings will resume tomorrow in rooms in the three-story building which were not affected by the fire. The fire was contained to Julie Hall inside the building. Damage has been estimated at $150,000, according to interim Fire Chief John Marsh.

“It’s critical for them to have that support in the lives of people in recovery,” said Casey, pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish about the 12-step programs. “We don’t want them to go without meeting for a long time.”

Casey said the intruders entered the building late Saturday night or early Sunday through a secured fire exit door and set fire to two metal cabinets filled with papers, art supplies, religious education books and other materials belonging to Alcoholic and Narcotics Anonymous.

The first of two alarms was sounded at 1 a.m. Sunday.

Before leaving the building, the intruders pulled the fire alarm, Casey said.

“Obviously, the people who set the fire panicked,” he said. “They didn’t realize that it was going to be so huge, which is probably why they pulled the alarm.”

“I was shocked and disappointed because this building is part of the community,” Casey said.

In this weekend’s church bulletin, Casey mentioned the fire and asked for prayers for the people responsible. He cited several Bible passages from Matthew 5:44 which says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

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