NEW YORK—A church in Queens was badly damaged by a fire hours before Sunday Mass, forcing the parish to cancel services.
The Fire Department was called to the two-alarm blaze around 5:45 a.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. The church is on 37th Avenue in Corona, Queens.
It took 106 firefighters about two hours to bring the blaze under control. No injuries have been reported.
Mass was canceled Sunday and won’t resume until further notice. Church service for the entire week has been canceled. One of the workers said that it would take at least 30 days before the damage would be repaired.
The fire department is still investigating the cause of the fire. The department declined to give an update on the investigation.
The first Roman Catholic Church to minister to Corona opened its doors in 1872 and regularly offered Spanish and English services to the local Hispanic community.
The church was originally a wooden structure that was replaced with brick in 1900, according to the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
“Can you imagine? Our church of more than 100 some years is destroyed?” said Fanny, a secretary at the church who declined to give her last name. “We feel pain. That’s the word that defines everything. We feel pain.”
Fanny attends mass regularly on Sundays. “Keep us in your prayers,” she said.
People, including young children, stood outside and across the street from the church all day, taking in the sight of the damage.
For 15 years, Iris Cruz, 63, who works at a beauty salon, attended the church on and off. Even after she moved further away from the church, she still managed to stop by, sometimes to pray before work.
“It’s a very full church. Very popular,” she said, noting that all eight masses offered on Sundays were usually packed, even the last one at 3 p.m.
She cried when she learned of the fire Sunday morning. “This is the home for everybody. Now everyone’s sad.”
The nearby school with a similar name, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Academy, closed on Monday, shutting off its electricity due to the church fire, according to a statement on its website.
“We expect to be open on Tuesday. I know that we’re all praying for each other,” it read.