MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A church community is salvaging what it can after a fire earlier this week.

It happened Monday night at Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church in northeast Minneapolis. No one was hurt. Investigators haven’t been able to figure out how it started.

For hours, careful hands have meticulously washed, buffed and breathed new life into soot-stained relics. Some precious pieces are more than 100 years old, like the very building where they once stayed.

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Walter Lach’s grandparents built the church.

“Just devastated looking at it,” Lach said. “Just like getting kicked in the gut, you know.”

He was on vacation in Mexico when he got word that the church caught fire. News footage of the smoke-filled sanctuary even appeared on the news channel where he was staying.

“I just seen a lot of hard work that went down the drain,” he said.

The church is a total loss, with sunlight piercing through the now-roofless building, where Lach got married 49 years ago.

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“It makes you question a lot of things. You know, why? How come?” he said.

As the congregation tries to find answers, head pastor Father John Kutek is trying to find the words to comfort them.

“From my side, I know that I have to support them spiritually and encourage them to live and have hope,” Kutek said.

That starts through the volunteers dedicated to restoring what could be saved. Statues, chalices, artwork and the alter were being cleaned of ash and smoke in the Parish Hall, across the street from the church. Other pieces suffered extensive water damage.

“We’re small, but we’re very persevering,” Lach said.

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Father Kutek says their faith is strong.

“Faith makes big difference in this world,” Kutek said.

The hall has hosted community dinners and wedding receptions. It will be filled with chairs for its first church service this Sunday at 10 a.m. All are welcome to attend.

The church is raising money in hopes of rebuilding. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page.

Jeff Wagner