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Fire leaves historic Texas church in ashes, deemed “total loss”

CHURCH OF VISITATION
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Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin Diocese has already vowed to rebuild.

The 500 members of the congregation of the Church of Visitation in Westphalia, Texas, are mourning the loss of their 124-year-old house of worship, after a devastating fire leveled the building early Monday morning.

A video posted on Youtube shows gigantic plumes of fire rising from the center of the building, which caused the bell towers to crumble. Statesman reports that fire marshals have begun an investigation into the origin of the fire, but as of yet have not indicated what caused the blaze.

While visiting the site of the catastrophe, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of the Austin Diocese said:

“I am saddened for the people of Westphalia who have suffered this tremendous loss. I am grateful for all the firefighters and departments that responded to the fire. Please join me in keeping the people of this historic parish in your prayers today as they try to piece together this tragedy.”

KWTX reports that parishioners were able to run into the building and save the tabernacle, along with the Blessed Sacrament, before the fire grew too intense. Unfortunately, they were unable to take anything else out of the building which was once considered one of the largest wooden structures west of the Mississippi River.

The fire came about 7 months before the parish was to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Church of Visitation. According to their website, the building contained 20 stained glass windows, which were brought over with German settlers in the 1800s. These pieces of the community’s history are forever lost.

Before the smoke had stopped rising from the ruined church, Bishop Vásquez vowed to rebuild the Church of Visitation. He said:

“I think, yes, we have to rebuild. With the great tradition of this place, there is too much that we can’t abandon. This is a place that means so much to people. People brought their children to be baptized here. They were married here. They celebrated the sacraments here. They were buried from this church. There is a great love and tradition at this church.”

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