Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Saint Mary's Church, in Brussels, Illinois, Destroyed by Fire

AN EMAIL FROM a parishioner of Saint Mary's Church, in Brussels, Illinois, informed me that the church was destroyed by a fire that sparked during the Christmas Vigil Mass. Firefighters and parishioners bravely managed to save many movable items in the church, including vestments, chalices, and statues, but the building itself is a total loss; fortunately, no one was injured, nor were adjacent properties harmed.

News stories and videos of the fire can be found here, here, and here.

My article on the church, dating from March 2009, is here, and a few additional photos of the church can be viewed here.

Immaculate Conception (Saint Mary's) Roman Catholic Church, in Brussels, Calhoun County, Illinois, USA - sanctuary

The sanctuary of the church, as it was in March of 2009.

The church dates from the 1860s, and was the center of life in this town, which is about 90% Catholic. This is a significant loss for the parishioners, who nevertheless hope to rebuild. However, it seems difficult to hope that this church, which was one of the finest country churches in the region, could be rebuilt in a similar manner today. The sense of filial piety, the respect for pious ancestors who have gone before, has preserved this church through the decades, and the same piety can move us to tears over the church's loss.

We live in a world that was made very good, yet is fallen. We are to expect sorrow and loss in this “vale of tears,” and while our reason should judge our feelings, we ought to mourn the loss of the good things in this life, such as this church. Jesus wept, His mother is called Our Lady of Sorrows, and we are to bear our crosses and follow Him. “Behold, I make all things new:” all sorrow and pain works out for the best insofar as we are united to God’s Will.


  1. How terrible! Such a beautiful Church!

  2. There will be a prayer service for the intentions of the St. Mary parish on Sunday, January 1st, at the church grounds. Prayer will begin at 2:15 p.m. We hope that our friends in Christ, wherever they may be, will join us in saying a rosary for the parish during this time.

  3. What a tragedy. I've never seen such a lovely Church.

  4. The original walls have been reinforced, and the reconstruction has begun!

  5. What a joy that it is being rebuilt. For twenty years I was the resident caretaker at Old St. Ferdinands Shrine in Florissant Mo. 1988-2009. In 1966 the Shrine caught fire. The entire roof of the Rectory roof was burned off completely and about a third of the Church roof was burned. There was smoke and water damage throughout the complex, many old items were destroyed and many people despaired that the Shrine would never be rebuilt. However by the grace of God and the determination of many people throughout the region St. Ferdinand Shrine rose from its ashes and now has a new life and can even be said to look better now than ever. So St. Marys too can rise from the ashes and the people of Brussels will have their wonderful old church again. Just look at the pictures of Old St. Ferdinand on this Rome of the West website and you will see what I mean.