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March 17, 2005 Edition   •   Volume 135, No. 10   •   Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A.

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The Catholic Herald is the official newspaper of the Diocese of Madison. Its purpose is to inform and educate people of the Diocese through communications that proclaim Gospel values, report the news, and comment on issues as they pertain to the mission of the Catholic Church, which is to bring all in Jesus Christ to the Father.
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Breaking News ...

St. Raphael Cathedral fire: Result of arson

Related articles:
Past articles on Cathedral:

Dec. 9, 2004 edition:
New spire crowns St. Raphael Cathedral

Oct. 7, 2004 edition:
St. Raphael Cathedral: Marks 150th anniversary of cornerstone

Sept. 30, 2004 edition:
New spire: To crown St. Raphael Cathedral ...
• Sidebar: First phase of Cathedral Restoration ...
Spire illustration -- a detailed PDF (Portable Document Format) file of Cathedral spire and its parts (233 KB file size)

Sept. 23, 2004 edition:
Stone by stone: Mason restores stones on cathedral facade

Sept. 16, 2004 edition:
Cathedral: Marks 150th anniversary of laying of cornerstone

Diocese of Madison links:

-- Posted: 3/18/05, 5:22 p.m. Central Time

By Julianne Nornberg

MADISON -- The March 14 fire at St. Raphael Cathedral was the result of arson.

That was what the Madison Fire Department's joint Fire/Police Investigation Team, assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire Arms, and Explosives and the Division of Criminal Investigation Arson Bureau has determined, according to Fire Chief Debra Amesqua at a press conference March 18.

A 41-year-old Lodi man, William Connell, was charged at a Dane County Circuit Court hearing March 18 with the arson.

"It was me," he allegedly told a police officer March 15. He allegedly said he broke into the church with a crowbar and stole a bottle of wine. When the officer asked him what he used to start the fire, he did not give an answer.

According to District Attorney Brian Blanchard, Connell was in custody since March 15.

His bail was set at $220,000 and Chief Commissioner Todd Meurer ordered a competency evaluation from the Department of Health and Family Services. The court hearing will resume upon return of the evaluation or in two weeks.

Bishop Robert C. Morlino and Msgr. Paul Swain, cathedral rector, said they were somewhat shocked when they heard that the probable cause was arson.

"All of the details of this are in God's hands and He'll lead us through this the way He wants to and He'll bring tremendous good out of it," said Bishop Morlino at a press conference March 18. "I forgive him and I'm praying for him."

Our religion is based on the belief that we are all sinners, said Monsignor Swain. "I will pray for this gentleman" and it is important for us to move from our natural reaction and be what we are really about - to share the love of Christ and be a forgiving people, he said.

"Whatever is put forward must be proved in court," he noted.

Bishop Morlino's statement on St. Raphael Cathedral fire

Following is a statement by Bishop Robert C. Morlino on the fire at St. Raphael Cathedral issued March 15:

Dear Friends,

In light of the tragic destruction of our Cathedral Church, St. Raphael, through fire, I want to express first of all my deepest gratitude to the Lord that there was no loss of human life connected with this tragedy.

I am also particularly grateful for the safety of Monsignor Swain who was able to leave the rectory shortly after the fire broke out, and I continue to be most grateful for his capable, on-site management of this tragedy.

Secondly, let me express my deepest gratitude to all in the greater Madison community who have communicated to me or to my staff how much they care for us in this loss that we have suffered.

This kind of human solidarity brings a peacefulness which is God's unique gift through caring human beings. I am also most grateful to all the civil servants, particularly the firefighters and the police who have assisted us in bringing the fire under control and keeping all people safe.

With deep gratitude I acknowledge the firefighters who assisted us in the safe removal at the appropriate time of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharistic presence of Christ, so that it could be secured in a neighboring church.

Along with gratitude, my own reaction at this time has fluctuated between shock and serenity. In a way I'm reminded of how I felt shortly after I received word that I would have to undergo open-heart surgery - the world looked different because of the change in my health situation.

As I look at the world without the Cathedral Church of St. Raphael, the world looks different to me, and I am saddened. The father of every human family likes to have a home that he calls his own where he can welcome daughters and sons. Surely he has other places to go and can even remain in the homes of his daughters and sons if he is temporarily or permanently displaced from his own home. But every father appreciates the joy of welcoming sons and daughters to his own home, and it is in that sense that I already profoundly miss St. Raphael Cathedral.

Furthermore the Cathedral is the visible sign of my union in the liturgical celebration with all of the priests, deacons, consecrated religious, and fine faithful people of the Diocese of Madison. There is no question that a very important ingredient in our diocesan life is now missing. The absence of the Cathedral Church is an invitation to make our communion in Christ as his faithful people more strong and more real.

This is no time for any discouragement but a time for courage in the Lord. I was most encouraged by the first three phone calls I received (other than the media or my own staff) with regard to the tragedy. The first was from a young man recently graduated from the UW and representing the Knights of Columbus Council at St. Paul University Catholic Center. He is a friend and he wanted to offer me his prayerful good wishes and also assure me that the young knights at their local council would do anything possible to help me.

In recent days I have celebrated many Confirmations with our high school youth in the diocese. It did not surprise me that the very first phone call came from one of those young people who show such great promise to be the saints of tomorrow. So how could I become discouraged? The second and third calls were from two of my priests once again assuring me of their prayers and offering to do anything they could to assist.
Full statement ...

Only in the print edition ...
News & Features:

Special section:
Building renovation

Parish Leadership Day:
Coverage of day's events


• Question Corner
by Fr. John Dietzen --
St. Paul: How did he become an authority on Christian doctrine?

• Gethsemane as the Place
of Transformation

by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser --
Real love: Giving of ourselves without being resentful

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photo of smoke rising from St. Raphael Cathedral in downtown Madison March 14

Smoke rises from the 150-year-old St. Raphael Cathedral in downtown Madison March 14. (Catholic Herald photo by Julianne Nornberg) (Another photo)

Firefighters work
to control blaze

MADISON -- Smoke billowed out of the roof, spire, and bell tower at the 150-year-old St. Raphael Cathedral early March 14 after a fire broke out there, only a few months after the new spire was raised.

The fire began at 5:32 a.m. and the Madison Fire Department was on the scene by 5:39 a.m., where they worked defensively to control the two-alarm fire, shooting water at it from the hoses of four ladder trucks.

The fire destroyed the roof, which collapsed into the church.   Full story ...

Holy Week schedule:
Diocesan liturgies

MADISON -- All in the Diocese of Madison are welcome to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week usually celebrated at St. Raphael Cathedral.

Because of the fire, they will be celebrated at the parishes indicated.

Palm Sunday
At St. John Vianney Parish, Janesville - Sunday, March 20, 9:45 a.m. Mass with Bishop Robert C. Morlino presiding and preaching.

Chrism Mass
At St. Maria Goretti Church, Madison - Tuesday, March 22, 7:30 p.m. Mass with Bishop Robert C. Morlino, principal celebrant; Bishop William H. Bullock and priests of the diocese, concelebrants.

Easter Triduum

Holy Thursday
At Holy Redeemer Church, Madison - Holy Thursday, March 24, Mass of the Lord's Supper, 5:30 p.m., Bishop Robert C. Morlino, principal celebrant.

Good Friday
At Holy Redeemer Church, Madison - Good Friday, March 25, Celebration of the Lord's Passion, 3 p.m., Bishop Robert C. Morlino, principal celebrant.

Holy Saturday
At Holy Redeemer Church, Madison - Holy Saturday, March 26, the Easter Vigil Eucharist, 8 p.m., Bishop Robert C. Morlino, principal celebrant.

Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday, March 27 - to be announced.

Prayer Mile:
Held March 20 in Pine Bluff

PINE BLUFF -- In response to an adult entertainment club that has opened on the corner of Mineral Point Rd. and Hwy. P here, St. Mary Parish is holding a "Prayer Mile" Stations Walk that will begin at noon on Palm Sunday, March 20.

"We will have the Stations of the Cross as a way for us to petition the Lord to bless this community," said Fr. Rick Heilman, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Pine Bluff, linked with St. Ignatius, Mt. Horeb.

Palm Sunday was chosen as the day to begin the Prayer Mile because it is a day to welcome the Lord to the city, he said.   Full story ...

Priest in wheelchair: To preside and preach at Spring Day for Handicapped

MONROE -- The Apostolate to the Handicapped announces its 38th annual Spring Day for the Handicapped to be held on Saturday, April 16, at Monroe Senior High School.

The theme of the day is "We Place Our Faith in You." The day celebrates the new life of Easter and springtime.

This year's Spring Day will feature Fr. Ted Borger, 49, who is a priest in a wheelchair. Father Borger was a United States Navy chaplain in the Desert Storm conflict. After returning to his home base in San Diego, Calif., he was seriously injured in a car accident 10 years ago, which put him in a wheelchair permanently. He will be the principal celebrant and preacher at the 10:45 a.m. Mass on April 16.   Full story ...

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