Convent on Staten Island subject of possible arson

New York City, N.Y., Oct 15, 2013 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A convent and chapel in New York City were the site this weekend of a suspicious fire, in which two nuns and four firefighters were injured.

Sister M. William McGovern, provincial superior of the Daughters of Divine Charity community on Staten Island, explained in an Oct. 12 press release that the fires were “a true tragedy.”
“The historic portion of our home – with our chapel, sacristy, archives and provincial offices was destroyed – and is now a crime scene.”

Early in the morning of Oct. 12, firefighters responded to fires at St. Joseph Hill Convent and Chapel. According to multiple local news sources, Sister Regina Gegic and another older sister were staying  in the building when the fire started, the former jumping from the second floor of the building to escape the flames.

Sister McGovern explained that Sister Gegic “is in intensive care at Staten Island University Hospital,” with injuries sustained from the fall. The other sister in the building at the time of the fire was not reported to have been harmed.

Other sisters in the order, including several visiting the United States for the 100th anniversary of the Daughters of Divine Charity’s presence in the United States, were staying in another building at the time, and were not harmed.

The fire is being investigated by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

This is potentially the second attack on the St. Joseph Hill  property in two months: in August, vandals caused $15,000 worth of damage to the property,  including its school, just a week before the school year began.

Eight teenagers were caught on surveillance tapes breaking into the convent and school in the previous incident, later in the same week another three were charged with attempted break-in after smashing a window.

Following the fire, the sisters “ask for prayers, especially for our beloved Sister Regina,”  and are grateful for the support of the community and fire and law enforcement officials as repairs and investigation into the fire’s causes continue.

Sister McGovern expressed that in spite of the damage and recent fire, the sisters will “return our original home to a state of beauty – when we can.”

“We will rebuild, we will restore our Convent and our place of worship.”

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