Father Peter Tonti-Filippini
Father Peter Tonti-Filippini

‘Gutted’: What happens next for fire-ravaged church

MEMBERS and parishioners of St Mary's Catholic Church gathered to console each other and share sentimental stories after the church was destroyed in a fire earlier this morning.

At the community meeting, at the Catholic Parish of Bundaberg this afternoon, parish priest, Father Peter Tonti-Filippini said he and the community were deeply saddened by the loss of the church, which was first built in 1955.

"When you go to the church, it is absolutely gutted and I mean really gutted … no pews, nothing, gone and the metal is just twisted and torn," Fr Tonti-Filippini said.

"And if that's the church, the people are even more gutted, but there is hope because you can't knock these people down for long."

Fr Tonti-Filippini said he was proud to be part of the multicultural church community and invited members to share what the church meant to them, to ensure the legacy lived on.

"It is a home where people dwell and you feel it in the stories that they tell," he said.

"We're hoping to collect these stories today with their pictures and put it into some form of book."

While Fr Tonti-Filippini said it was too early to determine future plans for the church and the site, his focus on the wellbeing of the community.

"It is far too raw to go there at the moment and I'm more interested in what we're going to be doing today for the community," he said.

"Down the track, we will talk about what will happen moving forward."

St Mary's Church was completely destroyed in the early hours of this morning after a fire tore through the premises.

Tributes poured on social media, with residents sharing memories of the church, where many weddings, funerals, confirmations, baptisms and masses have been held over several decades.

Gillian Colasimone married her husband at St Mary's Church on February 11, in 1978, more than forty years to the date that the fire occurred.

"We married there for my husband, Elio Colasimone who attended mass there every Sunday as he grew up with his Italian parents.

"Father Justin Clare married us and we had a very small wedding … only about 20 guests.

"(I felt) shock and sadness because of the history shared in the old building and it was weird that it happened on the day of our anniversary."

Gillian Colasimone married her husband at St Mary's Catholic Church in 1978.
Gillian Colasimone married her husband at St Mary's Catholic Church in 1978.

Christine Pohlmann told the NewsMail, she was also deeply saddened by the news of the fire.

"My grandparents lived next door to the presbytery on Maynard St and my Grandad used to mow the grounds of the school and church," Ms Pohlmann said.

"I made my first communion and confession there, was married there and both my children were baptised there as well."

Six fire crews attended to the blaze on the corner of Barolin and Boston St, about 4am.

A spokeswoman from QFES said crews arrived at the scene and worked for several hours to contain the fire, but the building in Walkervale, was completely engulfed.

Fire crews on site at St Marys after last nights blaze.
Fire crews on site at St Marys after last nights blaze.

Both QPS and QAS also attended the scene, where one patient was treated for injuries.

The patient who was believed to be a firefighter, was later transported to Bundaberg Hospital in a stable condition, for precautionary measures.

Crews extinguished the blaze by 4.50am, but the building was completely destroyed by the blaze.

Crews attended to a fire this morning at St Mary's Church.
Crews attended to a fire this morning at St Mary's Church.

The fire originated at the front alter of the church, near the rear car park, when the flames continued travelling down the roof and engulfed the rest of the building.

Family who live onsite notified emergency services, who worked to contain the fire for several hours.

QFES Inspector of Bundaberg Ron Higgins confirmed the building materials included asbestos, the property was listed on the asbestos register and the owner had been notified.

Mr Higgins said the cause of the fire remained unknown at this stage, as the structural damage was preventing crews from performing investigations today.

Investigations will continue once it is safe to do so.

Members of the St Mary's Church are invited to attend the Holy Rosary or St Patrick's Church in the meantime.