Community Reacts to Arson Arrest

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

Fire trucks on the corner and charred remains in the streets, as locals try to come to grips with the loss of a landmark, they now face another challenge, accepting police findings that the fire was intentionally set.

"That makes no sense. I don't know why anybody would do that," says La Crosse resident Bill Ohm.

Mike Kreigh attends a neighboring parish and says, "I was shocked to hear there was burning to begin with. Now that they think it is arson I am even more surprised."

Today defendant William Connell stood before a judge on charges of burglary and arson, shortly after words Monsignor Paul Swain stood before the press.

"I also was shocked just kind of taken a back by the thought that somebody would intentionally take a destructive act like that," says the Monsignor.

Early Monday morning fire ate away at the 150 year old church, causing the roof to cave in, the images are still fresh for many witnesses.

"It looked like a disaster area, fire trucks all over the place," remembers Gordon Herz who works next door to the church.

He took time document the aftermath by snapping photos.

"Just kind of as a remembrance of what it looks like now," says Herz.

"It was a beautiful building and it served the community, and it was a wonderful piece of architecture. It is a big loss to downtown I think," says Madison resident Richard Derge.

Not knowing yet if they will rebuild, church leaders are grieving, praying, and thinking about the man police say is responsible.

Bishop Robert Morlino says, "I forgive him, I'm praying for him, and at an appropriate moment I would want to go and visit him."

Due to the fire there are changes for services during Holy Week. The following are the locations and times for parishioners.

Palm Sunday, March 20 -- Celebration of Mass, 9:45 a.m., St. John Vianney Parish, Janesville.

Tuesday, March 22 -- Chrism Mass, 7:30 p.m., St. Maria Goretti Parish, Madison.

Holy Thursday, March 24 -- Mass of the Lord's Supper, 5:30 p.m., Holy Redeemer Parish, Madison.

Good Friday, March 25 -- Celebration of the Lord's Passion, 3 p.m., Holy Redeemer Parish, Madison.

Saturday, March 26 -- Celebration of the Easter Vigil Eucharist, 8 p.m., Holy Redeemer, Madison.

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