A little more than a month after a night-time fire broke out at St. Thomas Aquinas Church & Catholic Student Center, the church has begun to pick up the pieces.
The fire broke out Sept. 25 in the upper level of the church close to the sanctuary. Most of the fire damage was contained to a small area. However, the sanctuary suffered major smoke damage. The Rev. Jim Dubert estimated the fire caused close to $1 million in damage overall.
The reason for the high value of the damage, Dubert said, was because parts of the sanctuary contains asbestos.
As of now, the sanctuary remains sealed off from the public. The student lounge and main offices, however, are still open.
Dubert said they hope to have the sanctuary open for worship by February. Until the reopening, Sunday services will be in Benton Auditorium of the Scheman Building. Other church services are in the community room of the church.
Dubert also mentioned the help from other churches in Ames has been tremendous. Other groups are letting St. Thomas Aquinas have weddings and other religious activities in their churches.
“That really means a lot to us, churches working together to help one another out,” Dubert said.
Tina Meyer, 51, Ames citizen and member of St. Thomas Aquinas, is currently on trial for first degree arson — a class B felony — in relation to the church fire. On Oct. 15, Meyer pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the exact reasons are classified. Meyer’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
St. Thomas Aquinas is working with Meyer to forgive her and help her through this part of her life. Church representatives said the parish is keeping an open mind and is willing to forgive Meyer of the accused wrongdoings.
“Like the Bible says, you have to always be willing to forgive and reconcile,” Dubert said.
In other construction news at St. Thomas Aquinas, Dubert said the church is proud to announce the addition of a new parking ramp behind the church. With more than 200 parking spaces, the new ramp will allow parishioners to park closer to the church.
St. Thomas Aquinas, located on Lincoln Way across from the Memorial Union, has a special area for students to come worship and do homework, which many students routinely choose to use.
Check back with the Daily for up-to-date information involving the St. Thomas Aquinas church fire.