4-alarm blaze destroys the rectory of 143-year-old Lawrence church

LAWRENCE, Mass. — As flames pored through the roof of the rectory at Holy Rosary Church in Lawrence, parishioners watched on in disbelief.

“I think it’s horrible. Hopefully it doesn’t get into the church,” said Joe Brasco.

The fire started at about 6 p.m., and the 4-alarm blaze was knocked down. But suddenly, just after 8 p.m., flames roared back to life on the third floor of the rectory. The old building made it tough to tackle the flames.

“Very difficult access inside, and it’s cut up by alleyways,” said Lawrence Fire Chief Brian Moriarty.

Parishioners, many Italian immigrants whose families built this church, watched on hoping and praying that the church, built in 1878 according to one local historian on scene, would not be lost in the flames.

“It’s a long relationship with the church. It was built by our members and the Italian immigrants who came to this city,” said Joe Mariano.

Mariano is part of the St. Alfio Society. The group was started by immigrants from Sicily to help fellow down and out immigrants. They also run the annual festival here each September. Their group is housed in a building adjacent to the rectory and the church.

“I was married here, my parents my grandparents. It’s very hard. You get choked up,” said Mariano.

Lawrence’s fire chief says though the rectory is gone, the church was not touched by the fire.

“They’ll be some smoke and water. There’s water in the basement, but it didn’t burn down,” said Chief Moriarty.

The pastor, who lives in the rectory alone, got out safely. The fire chief says no firefighters were injured.