Hundreds of worshippers gathered under umbrellas and tents outside St. Joseph Catholic Church for noon mass Thursday after a five-alarm fire caused significant damage to the historic church’s sanctuary and roof.
Archbishop Alexander Sample of the Archdiocese of Portland came to Salem to assist with the service.
Police said the fire began around 2:30 a.m. in a dumpster on church property, spreading quickly to the roof. They determined the cause was arson and arrested a suspect, 48-year-old Billy James Sweeten.
At the service Thursday, clergy led prayers for those in need across Salem.
St. Joseph plans to continue to hold mass despite the fire, either in the parking lot or in the church’s gym. Sample said he plans to return for the Sunday mass at 11:30 a.m.
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Photographer Ron Cooper and his wife Penny moved to Salem in 1969 to take a job as photographer at the Oregon Statesman (later the Statesman Journal). Their three children, Monica, Kimberly, and Christopher, attended and graduated from Salem public schools. Cooper retired from the Statesman Journal in 2001 but, has continued his passion for photography in many ways, including as a photographer for the Salem Reporter.
Laura Tesler has lived in Salem, Oregon for 20 years and is originally from Flint, MI. Laura has been an underwater photographer for 15 years, and is an avid scuba diver. Topside, she has been taking photographs since age 12, and currently works on assignment for the Salem Reporter, and full time purchasing land for fish and wildlife habitat in the Willamette Valley. Laura attended Oregon State University, and has traveled extensively all over the world and the United States.