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Tabernacle Saved, Though Hearts Ache: Flames Destroy North Haledon Chapel

It took 3½ hours to douse the fire at the Mary Help of Christians chapel in North Haledon.
It took 3½ hours to douse the fire at the Mary Help of Christians chapel in North Haledon. Photo Credit: Salesian Sisters

Students cried Friday morning as they walked past the soot-covered windows of the chapel at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, which was destroyed by an overnight fire.

Inside, the altar was charred, pews had melted and the Peragallo pipe organ was ravaged.

This after work was completed just two years ago to repair water damage.

“Though our hearts are heavy, we are fortunate to be able to report that no one was harmed and that firemen were able to rescue the most precious item in the chapel: the tabernacle,” the St. Joseph Province of the Salesian Sisters wrote.

A “testament to the strength of our community,” the sisters said, is that the first donation to help rebuild the chapel was received from a faculty member before the school day even began: She’d heard the fire chatter on a scanner and “was immediately moved to help.”

Flames shot through the roof in the four-alarm, 1:30 a.m. blaze, which brought firefighters from North Haledon, Hawthorne, Franklin Lakes and Paterson municipalities to the Belmont Avenue private high school. Three and a half hours later, the flames were finally doused.

A cause hadn't immediately been determined.

Originally built in 1976 and later renovated in 2016, the chapel was the heart of the academy, as well the center of activities for the Salesian Sisters.

It’s held all types and sizes of events –graduations, religious professions of vows, jubilees and more -- which were to include the June 1 Baccalaureate Mass and commencement the following day.

“The Sisters, students, faculty, and staff of the Academy are devastated by this loss, but remain thankful to the dedicated firemen who contained the fire before it could cause additional damage to our facilities,” they wrote.

DONATE HERE: www.maryhelp.org/donate/

Or to Sr. Mary Rinaldi, FMA at Mary Help of Christians Academy, 659 Belmont Ave, North Haledon, NJ 07508 .

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