The ceiling of a church in New Jersey collapsed during Holy Week, leaving piles of debris scattered over church pews just days before Easter Sunday.
The collapse at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Passaic happened less than a week after members of the congregation noticed the ceiling was sagging, a spokesperson for the church said.
On Thursday morning, the church cleaner heard it crack and when she went to get the secretary part of the ceiling caved in. Nobody was inside.
Parishioners were scheduled to fill the pews below for Holy Thursday later that night.
“Please keep our Parish in your prayers,” a message posted to the church’s Facebook page Thursday read. “During this Holy Thursday we aren't able to use our Church.”
Passaic Mayor Hector Lora, who had his first communion at the church, said the damage is heart-wrenching, but he's looking at the bright side.
"One of the things that I see in this unfortunate situation is the other side, which is a blessing," he said. "It occurred at a time when the building was empty. It is obvious that this was going to happen at one time or another. It gives us another reason during this Holy Week to be thankful that no one was injured."
Masses for the rest of the week will be held across the street at the gymnasium to accommodate the crowds.
A sign on the door says Easter services will be held in the church parish hall.
The magnitude of the damage to the nearly 100-year-old church has yet to be determined. The Diocese of Paterson plans to send insurance investigators to the church over the next few days. The church will have to pay whatever insurance doesn’t cover.
The church is taking donations on its website to help with the expenses.
A spokesperson for St. Anthony's said members worked Thursday to build a tabernacle at the parish center for Holy Communion.