Shrine of St. Joseph targeted in string of church arsons

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Fire Charred
FIRE CHARRED the bottom of the rectory's heavy wooden double doors but didn't spread to the small foyer beyond the doors. The three-story rectory used to be a Jesuit school but is now used as offices. – David Carson/Post-Dispatch photo
Shrine of St Joseph
THE SHRINE OF ST. JOSEPH, which hosts the annual Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass, was targeted by an arsonist Oct. 22 in a string of set fires at St. Louis area churches.

Historic church has strong ties with Labor

By TIM ROWDEN

Editor

An arsonist set fire to the rectory door of the Shrine of St. Joseph north of downtown St. Louis Oct. 22, marking the seventh in a rash of arson fires at St. Louis area churches.

David Lopez Jackson, 35, of Glasgow Village was charged Oct. 30 with two of the seven fires.

Forensic evidence linked him to a fire on Oct. 18 at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1011 Theobald Street; and video of his car near New Life Missionary Baptist Church, 4569 Plover Avenue, linke him to the fire there on Oct. 17, police Chief Sam Dotson said.

A container of gasoline and a Thermos bottle that smelled of gasoline were found in his car, Dotson said.

SHRINE OF ST. JOSEPH

The shrine, at 1220 North 11th Street, is on the outskirts of downtown in what's known as Columbus Square.

The shrine is an historic Catholic church with strong ties to the labor movement. The shrine hosts the annual Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass in May of each year and, after years of neglect, was restored to its original beauty through the donated labor, skills and material of unions and union craftsmen.

Flames charred the bottom of the rectory's heavy wooden double doors but didn't spread to the small foyer beyond the doors. The three-story rectory used to be a Jesuit school but is today used as offices.

No one was inside when the fire was set. A fire alarm, set off by the flames, automatically notified the fire department. Fire fighters extinguished the blaze with a handheld fire extinguisher.

The shrine dates to the 1840s, and was the site of a Vatican-authenticated miracle in 1964. Some will remember it as the church where a 79-year-old priest was murdered during a burglary in 1979.

CALL FOR ACTION

The fire at the Shrine of St. Joseph and other churches in north St. Louis and Jennings were a topic of conversation at the monthly Faith/Labor Breakfast held at Maggie O’Brien’s in downtown St. Louis Oct. 22.

Don Willey of Laborers Local 110 called on fellow union members to organize behind a reward fund and helping the churches repair the damage.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Faith for Justice, a national Evangelical movement, has set up an Indiegogo crowd funding page to raise money to help the churches repair the damage.

Money collected will be used to help repair the damage to the churches and install security systems to prevent further damage. Any excess money raised will be used by the affected churches for programs in the community.

To contribute, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-for-st-louis-churches#.

(Some information for this story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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