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Parishes raise funds to rebuild St. Mary's in Red Lake

The chimney of St. Mary's Mission Church still stands after a fire was reported at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Red Lake, Minn. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

RED LAKE, Minn. — Days after the historic St. Mary's Mission Church in Red Lake burned to the ground, people whose lives have been touched by the church are attempting to raise money to help rebuild.

One GoFundMe page, started by Troy Bauer, a youth minister at St. Katharine Drexel in Ramsey, Minn., has already raised $990 in just four days. Bauer first visited St. Mary's school in 2012 while running a mission trip and wanted to help the church get back on its feet when he heard about the fire.

"The experience that I had up there with the kids was just, it was just a safe place for them," Bauer said. "It was a place where kids could come and learn about God, but also just have a safe space where they have people that care about them, and that they can care about and look up to."

Because of his ongoing experience with St. Mary's and his longterm friendship with the church's pastor, Father Jerry Rogers, Bauer wanted to help rebuild. In place of St. Katharine Drexel's typical Adopt-A-Family campaign, the parish will raise money to benefit St. Mary's.

Bauer also said he plans to take groups on weekend trips to help physically rebuild the church once a building plan is in place.

The church fire broke out at about 2:36 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, and quickly engulfed the building, which was more than 100 years old. Firefighters called to the scene were not able to save the structure, but kept the fire from claiming other nearby buildings on the St. Mary's campus.

Rogers said the church community continued to grieve Tuesday, but that multiple parishes were already stepping in to help.

"One parish called to let us know that the people voted on Sunday to give us the Christmas collection, other parishes are collecting chairs, others tables. I mean, they're offering whatever they can do," Rogers said. "We're just beginning to put together a list of needs so that we can respond properly to these people."

Rogers said he doesn't know how much it will cost to rebuild the church, and that there is no concrete plan in place yet.

"Right now, we're trying to take care of our own people in regards to their grieving," he said.

Bauer's GoFundMe page can be found here:

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or

(218) 333-9796