St. Rose Catholic Church in Perrysburg was filled with the drone of vacuums and the skritch of brooms Thursday as dozens of volunteers spruced up the sanctuary, getting it ready for the evening's Mass of the Lord's Supper two days after lightning sparked a fire in the steeple.
The fire caused a short circuit in the system that rings the church bells, and the lights can only be turned on or off, not dimmed. Otherwise the building "is in good shape," said Msgr. Marvin Borger, pastor.
Despite gallons of water sprayed on the blaze by firefighters, the biggest cleanup job for Thursday's crew was wiping up a thin layer of fine powder that had settled over the pews, floors, walls, statues, and stained-glass windows.
"We're very fortunate. It was not anything we can't handle," Monsignor Borger said, adding that there was no smell of smoke in the sanctuary even right after the blaze, when firefighters let him into the building.
On Thursday, more than 30 people brought their own vacuums, featherdusters, buckets, sponges, and cleaning solutions into the East Front Street church and spent a few hours wiping, scrubbing, dusting, and polishing.
Frank Brahier, 78, a lifelong St. Rose parishioner who was pushing a vacuum between the pews, said the fallen cross was not the steeple's original, but a replacement installed during a renovation.
Dan Pilzecker, who in 1975 and '76 restored the church's 1873 tracker organ built by Garrett House of Buffalo, said he inspected the instrument, and it was undamaged by the fire. He said it is the oldest functioning organ in the Toledo area.
"I think it's a wonderful instrument. It's a very beautiful instrument. A rare instrument," Mr. Pilzecker said.
St. Rose of Lima Parish, which has 8,000 parishioners, was founded in 1862, and its present Sandusky bluestone building was completed in 1892. Lightning struck its copper-covered steeple Tuesday about 10:30 a.m., sparking the blaze. About five minutes later, the 6-foot-tall cross toppled 170 feet from its perch, striking the roof of a new glass-enclosed elevator entrance and crushing a copper gutter before bouncing into the parking lot.
Firefighters from Perrysburg, Perrysburg Township, Maumee, and Rossford fought the blaze in the steeple and had it quenched by noon Tuesday, officials said.
Janise Kaufman, who supervises St. Rose's cleaning ministry, said she was inside the sanctuary, working with a team of four volunteers preparing the building for Holy Week, when the lightning hit.
"There was a loud clap of thunder and the lights dimmed," Ms. Kaufman said. "We thought that was all, until we couldn't turn the lights off and the phones didn't work. Then we went outside and looked up. It was smoke first, then the flames."
For Mr. Brahier, watching the steeple burn was scary.
"I was baptized here. Had First Communion here. My son is buried in the cemetery. There are so many memories. I thought of Historic St. Patrick," he said, referring to the downtown Toledo Catholic church where the steeple burned beyond repair after a 1980 lightning strike.
It was not replaced until 2007.
Monsignor Borger said he planned to mention the fire in his homily at Thursday evening's Mass of the Lord's Supper.
"The entrance hymn is, 'Let Us Glory in the Cross.' There's no cross on the top of our church, but it's more important what we do here in the church, which is lift up the cross through our love for the Holy Eucharist and our desire to imitate the Lord Jesus," Monsignor Borger said.
The rest of St. Rose's Holy Week services for Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter will be held in the sanctuary.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.