MINNEAPOLIS — For more than a century, members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish have been building community in northeast Minneapolis.
But nearly three weeks ago, the historic church went up in flames.
"It was devastating, really. We were shocked that something happened like this," Rev. John Kutek said.
On the night of April 19, a fire ripped through the church. What the fire didn't damage, the water did. Rev. Kutek suspects it was arson, pointing to the dents in the front door that he believes are from someone breaking in. Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner told KARE 11 Sunday that the cause of the fire was undetermined. The case will remain open pending further evidence.
Before even considering rebuilding, the 107-year-old church needs to be demolished. The Polish National Catholic Church is one of only two in Minnesota.
"Our parish is less than 30 people so it's very small parish and we are struggling, especially through COVID times," Rev. Kutek said.
Church services are now being held across the street at their fellowship hall. Last Sunday, they used the space for a grief counseling session that allowed parishioners to express how they have been feeling since the church was destroyed. They also gathered outside the church a couple weeks ago for a candlelight vigil.
On Sunday afternoon, Cheryl Thoreson stopped by the parish hall with her daughter Becky Mensing after a Mother's Day brunch. Thoreson grew up in the neighborhood and held her wedding reception here 56 years ago.
"Yeah, it's got memories here," said Thoreson, who now lives in Fridley.
Mensing added, "I was just kind of floored and learned about the church and it was just really sad."
Now the hall is ushering in new memories, surrounded by items parishioners saved from the church.
It includes a large wooden cross, depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus' arms and hands were torn off, damaged after the fire.
"When I look at this Jesus, this makes me to cry. Because he has no hands but from the other hand I know that I'm his right and left hand," Rev. Kutek said.
Rev. Kutek said it's not just him, but all parishioners at the church who are doing God's work through their hands.
"That's beautiful. I love it," Rev. Kutek said, while looking at the image. "We'll keep this cross like this. We're not going to renew this. It's going to be like this. It's a beautiful, visible sign of his presence, his suffering, our suffering."
Rev. Kutek said right now they're hoping to raise enough money to cover the demolition of the church.
"This church is in ashes but from those ashes, that church will resurrect," he said.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the church recover. As of Sunday night, it had raised nearly half of its $50,000 goal.
Donations can also be sent directly to the church:
Sacred Heart of Jesus
420 22nd Avenue NE
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418