The charred crucifix in the sanctuary of Christ the King Church in Pine Mountain, sans Jesus' crown of thorns, has been removed from its hanging supports in the aftermath of the Aug. 15 fire. Photograph by Michelle Chardos.
The charred crucifix in the sanctuary of Christ the King Church in Pine Mountain, sans Jesus' crown of thorns, has been removed from its hanging supports in the aftermath of the Aug. 15 fire. Photograph by Michelle Chardos.
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Lightning strike damages Christ the King Church

Originally Appeared in : 9718-8/31/17

Father Ronnie Madden, pastor of Christ the King Church in Pine Mountain, had just finished saying evening Mass for the Feast of the Assumption when he decided to sit on his porch and watch a thunderstorm.  

 

Tracking lightning on the radar, he was puzzled when he suddenly saw that a strike had hit “zero miles” from where he was sitting.  He then heard an “unmerciful crack.”  When it was safe, Father Madden ran through the small patch of woods to his 10-year-old church and saw flames shooting through the cupola.  

 

“It was a very humbling experience,” Father Madden said.

 

Once fire crews arrived, two deputy sheriffs stopped Father Madden from going into the church.  

 

“My first thought was to rescue the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.   

 

But he was forced to anxiously wait outside for hours.  When things were more under control, a fireman agreed to go in and rescue Jesus in the Eucharist. The fireman used his shoulders to push the tabernacle on its stand to a back door where Father Madden reached in and retrieved the ciborium.  While the Blessed Sacrament was saved from the fire, the hand-carved mahogany crucifix hung directly beneath the path of falling debris.  

 

“Our beautiful wooden crucifix is scarred in many places but the donor and I both agreed we wouldn’t restore it,” he said. “We want the damage to be a reminder of the trials we face in life.”  

 

The crucifix was displayed in a Sunday school room the weekend after the fire. 

 

Sharon Grenier was visibly moved by the spots of charring.  

 

“The burned parts bring the suffering of our Lord’s passion even more into reality for me,” she said.

 

The congregation should be able to worship in the main sanctuary again in roughly six to nine months.  Meanwhile, Mass is now held in Christ the King’s brand new 25,000 square-foot pastoral center.  

 

The day after the fire, Bishop Hartmayer called Father Madden to ask if he was doing ok with the tough circumstances.  

 

Father’s reply was, “Why wouldn’t I be? I left a broken church and moved into a Cathedral.”  The “cathedral” is partly named after Sister Philomena Fogarty who was tragically murdered in 2003.  

 

Abby Weaver has fond memories of taking RCIA classes from Sister Philomena. She and her husband, Dick, were devastated after the loss of Sister Philomena and said their hearts were sick all over again when they heard the news of the fire.  They came to Mass the following Sunday uncertain about the future of their beloved parish. 

 

 “We needed to hear from Father.  He is our shepherd and his message was full of hope for the future,” they said.

 

“We’ve had tough times before,” said Father Madden.  “Just think back.  But we’ve risen to the challenge every time.  We built this church once.  We’ll build it again.” 

 

Michelle Chardos is a freelance writer living in Columbus and a parishioner of Saint Anne Church.

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