Historic Catholic church in Texas burns to the ground, ATF investigates
A historic 124-year-old Roman Catholic church in a rural Texas farming town that serves 244 families burned to the ground on Monday.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office continued to sift through the rubble and investigate what sparked the fire at the Church of the Visitation in Westphalia. Investigators said there were no injuries.
Insurance adjusters estimated that the damages to the building, said to have been the largest all-wood church in the state, could reach $4 million, KWTX reported. The church was built in 1895 and included some 20 stained-glass windows that had been imported from Germany.
“I am saddened for the people of Westphalia who have suffered this tremendous loss,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez said, according to a Facebook post by the Diocese of Austin. “I am grateful for all the firefighters and departments that responded to the fire. Please join me in keeping the people of this historic parish in your prayers today as they try to piece together this tragedy.”
The congregation had been planning a celebration for the 125th anniversary of the church, which was constructed around a Latin cross and flanked by bell towers on either side.
All that was saved as the flames consumed the structure was the tabernacle.
The church was accepting donations for rebuilding efforts.