St. Helena’s Church Community Builds Up Foundation of Faith After Devastating Fire

Tags: Currents Bronx, Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Fire, Flames, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

Suzanne Piscitelli goes to Mass every day. She doesn’t need a big church or ornate decorations, all she needs is Christ – that’s why a small room in the back of St. Helena’s Church property is just fine.

“Father David has done everything in his power to make this a little chapel, making parishioners feel welcome and like Jesus is welcoming them to come to Mass,” said Suzanne.

Parishioners go there to worship now; the rumble of the No. 6 train muffles their prayers. Inside the main church, it’s silent except for the hum of filters and generators.

The day after Christmas, a six-alarm fire in an electrical panel ripped through the sacristy. The flames were contained – but the damage is extensive and a strong smell of smoke lingered.

Father David Powers, pastor, says the church hasn’t missed a Mass and celebrating in a room that fits 24 instead of the church that fits 1,200 is allowing people to get back to basics.

“I don’t think the location is as important as the people who come, ‘where there are two or more gathered in my name I am present’ and that’s really what this is all about,” said Father Powers.

“You don’t have to be in church to pray or have God present, He’s with us all the time,” Suzanne said.

As the church community recovers, Father Powers says it’s a chance to make the building and foundation of faith even stronger.

“Something like this motivates you to say how can we make things better and it does encourage one to evaluate their priorities and say I want to have a more intense relationship with the Lord,” he said.

Father Powers estimates the cost of the damage reaches into the hundreds of thousands with the church having to pay for whatever insurance doesn’t cover. He’s hoping to be celebrating Mass at the main altar again in March.