Updated: Aug 13, 2021
The following story appeared in the August 13 Idaho Catholic Register.
Much of the St. Ann’s Church, pictured above before the fire, in the eastern Idaho community of Mud Lake was destroyed by fire during the early morning hours of July 1. Officials believe the fire was caused by lightning. At the top right is a picture of the sanctuary area after the fire. At bottom right is the cleaned ciborium with consecrated hosts inside. The Easter candle is also believed to have sustained little damage, said Father Francisco Flores, the current pastor at the parish. The fire happened during the final week of Father Ron Wekerle’s pastorate at the parish, which is St. John Paul II Community, headquartered in Idaho Falls, about 45 miles southeast of Mud Lake.
(Photos courtesy of EastIdahoNews.com)
By Gene Fadness
MUD LAKE – The faithful who attend St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Mud Lake aren’t letting the fire that all but destroyed their tiny church stop them from worshipping or from fundraising for their future church home.
The congregation has been attending Mass at the West Jefferson School District administration building since the fire that started during the early morning hours on July 1. And, according to Jaime Renova of the building committee, parishioners are already in a “fundraising mode,” planning yard sales and events at the upcoming Jefferson County Fair. All the proceeds raised at a nearby taco truck are going to the rebuild effort.
Mud Lake is in the western portion of Jefferson County, about 45 miles northwest of Idaho Falls. The mission church is part of St. John Paul II Parish based in Idaho Falls.
West Jefferson Fire Control District officials say lightening is believed to be the cause of the fire, which started at about 1 a.m. on July 1. Jamie Kidd, who lives next door, told EastIdahoNews.com that he could smell smoke and was getting in his car to go find the source of the fire when he saw smoke coming from the church and fire in the basement window. He called 911 and firefighters were on the scene in a matter of minutes.
Despite their quick response, Renovo said he believes the church will be near a total loss. “We are still waiting to hear from the insurance company on the exact cause and what the loss will be,” Renovo said.
The community is primarily made up of farm families and migrant workers. About 24 families are registered there, Renovo said.
Father Ron Wekerle was in his final days as pastor of the parish when the fire occurred. “Although our beautiful and quaint church has been destroyed, the faith we have continues to be strong,” Father Wekerle told EastIdahoNews.com. He asked that the parishioners at St. Ann’s be remembered in prayer and thanked the fire department for its timely assistance.
Father Francisco Flores is the current pastor of St. John Paul II Parish. He said the fire burned most intensely in the sanctuary, but that the Easter candle may have been spared. “Apparently, it is damaged, but intact,” Father Flores said.
A picture sent by Gisselle Montalven of the parish staff shows that the church’s ciborium containing the consecrated hosts is also well preserved.
Those wanting to help the church can contact St. John Paul II Catholic Parish at ifcatholics.net or at 208-522-4366.
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