MELROSE -- After nearly two-years to the day, the town of Melrose is still trying to pick up the pieces after a devasting fire destroyed a historic church.

On March 11th, 2016 St. Mary's Church in Melrose was set on fire. The fire destroyed much of the inside of the church but the original structure still stands. A group, the Friends to Restore St. Mary's has been working since the fire to restore the church.The same group is hosting a prayer vigil outside of the church this Sunday.

Tim Vogel is the former Mayor of Melrose and the spokesperson for the Friends to Restore St. Mary's. He says the vigil will start at the same time the fire started exactly two years ago.

"We are going to have some music and prayer sessions at St. Mary's Church to commemorate the exact time of the fire and basically pray for the restoration of the church."

The vigil will start at 4:45 p.m. Vogel says the group originally wanted to gather on the church's front steps but diocese wouldn't allow it.

"Some of our parishioners went to the church on Saturday to shovel the steps off so it would be [safe to host the vigil] and Father Marv told us we were trespassing on church property and ended up calling the police. Now they have a big fence around the front so you can't get to the steps."

Since the fire, the church's congregation has been split in two, those who want to restore the church and those who want to build a new church. The two sides are currently involved in a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the diocese has recently presented plans for a new St. Mary's Church near the current one.

As for the arson case, Melrose Police Chief Craig Maus says it's ongoing and now being investigated by the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.


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