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Roof collapses at church
Times photos: Brenda Steurer Parishioners help clean up debris from a ceiling collapse Monday at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Darlington. The ceiling above the altar collapsed at about 1:30 p.m. Four people were in the church at the time but no one was injured. Parishioners worked late into the night to clean up the dust and debris. People of all ages came to the church to help.
DARLINGTON - There was a sound as if someone was walking on the roof of the church just before the ceiling above the altar at Holy Rosary Catholic Church crashed to the floor at about 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Four parishioners were lighting a candle when they heard the ceiling collapse and saw the dust and debris crash to the floor below.

They rushed to the parish center to tell church secretary Marge Carr what had happened.

"They said that Jesus must have been with them because they just started walking away when the ceiling fell," Carr said.

No one was injured.

Like other members of the church, Carr was shocked by the damage. At first, she said, she thought something must have fallen. She didn't think it could be that bad.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe all the dust and damage," she said. "I couldn't see the altar from the floor because it was so dusty."

Dan Lange was one of more than 50 parishioners who came to the church at about 6 p.m. to help with the clean-up.

Although the exact cause of the collapse isn't known, Lange speculated that the ceiling simply gave way due to the age of the building. He said there was a lot of weight on the beams. The church was built in 1868 and there have been a few renovations over the years, he said.

As parishioners gathered together to sweep, clean up debris and haul away wood, Father Randy Budnar had mixed emotions.

Obviously saddened by the damage, he was proud of how church members banded together.

"It's a sign of their love for the church and their faith," Budnar said as load after load of debris was cleaned from the church. "I'm impressed with the response we had tonight."

Parishioners planned to stay at the church Monday until everything was cleaned up.

"It was great to see everyone from the parish come in and pull together," Carr said.

Some people picked up debris while others swept the floor.

Budnar said a beam fell on the altar and caused some damage.

Fortunately, he said, no one was on the altar when the ceiling collapsed. Had the ceiling collapsed Sunday, he would have been directly under the ceiling.

Parishioners who came to clean up expressed surprise and shock at the collapse and the damage.

"I was just shocked," Randy Bergeson said.

Jane Kleiber said the same thing.

"At least no one was injured," she added.

Budnar said the church plans to hold services as scheduled Sunday in the church.

The Darlington Police Department provided traffic control at the church, located at 104 E. Harriet St.