As Wake church rebuilds from fire, Easter message unchanged
Posted April 20
Wake County, N.C. — It's customary for St. Luke The Evangelist Catholic Church, just north of Raleigh, to have simultaneous Easter services at 10:30 a.m.
One is usually in the sanctuary, and the other is in the fellowship hall. But a fire destroyed the sanctuary earlier this year, forcing Father Rob Staley to move one of the services to the grotto.
“Yes, parishioners miss their church,” Staley said. “But they know it will be rebuilt. And people have pulled together really well and concentrated on their faith and what’s most important.”
Blue tarp still remains on the sanctuary, but it’s come a long way since Jan. 11, when a young man crashed his SUV through the front entrance and set the place on fire.
Authorities said the man, identified as Jason Terrell Martin, 20, set a house on fire before driving to the church. He was found dead in the parking lot from a self-inflicted gunshot.
At the time of his death, the Diocese of Raleigh issued a statement of sympathy and prayer for Martin’s family.
In the months since, Staley believes the church community is stronger and more supportive than ever.
With no walls and no roof, Easter service in the grotto was a celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in a natural setting that Staley called “God’s cathedral.”
"We have our blessed mother. We have St. Joseph, and we have this glorious canopy of trees God has provided for us," he said.
For worshipper Amanda Riepe, the service was a sort of homecoming. She grew up in the area but now lives in Atlanta. She came back to visit her parents for the holiday.
“Easter is being with your family and celebrating obviously a very special event,” she said.
When her family joined St. Luke in 1987, services were held in the firemen’s hall.
“Like then, you still have the community aspect of it,” Riepe said. “Once again, you have removable chairs, the altar where everybody came together to put it together at the firemen’s hall – and they’re doing the same thing here at the fellowship hall. So, they don’t lose the spirit.”
Amid the changes, Staley’s message of faith remains unchanged.
“He wants us to have joy in this life, to serve Him, to love Him – and to love another,” he said.