OCONTO FALLS, Wis. (Feb. 24, 2012) – In the aftermath of the February 21 fire that caused extensive damage to their school building, St. Anthony Catholic Parish and School today expressed gratitude for the outpouring of community support, and outlined plans to ensure that classes resume with minimal disruption.

Father Joel Sember, pastor, said, “On behalf of our principal, Rosemary Marifke, and myself, I would like to especially thank Vicki Roberts, city administrator, and her team, especially Tim Magnin and the fire department and Mike Roberts and the police department. We also appreciate the quick and compassionate response from Tammy Basten and John Reetz, Catholic Diocese of Green Bay; and Pastor Larry Bong and Grace Lutheran Church for allowing us to use their facility to continue classes this year.” Classes resume Monday at Grace Lutheran, where phone lines have been redirected to a temporary office.

According to Father Sember, St. Anthony will move forward with the same formula that has made the school so successful during nearly a century of service to Oconto Falls and the surrounding area: the resourcefulness of dedicated teachers and staff; the hard work of parents; and the support of the community. The school is conducting a thorough evaluation of the structural damage. At this stage in the process, administrators believe that rebuilding will be a long and involved process.

The St. Anthony school community was deeply saddened to learn that the fire was apparently not an accident. “It is hard to express in words the hurt and pain caused by this careless act of malice,” Father Sember said. “We are thankful that no one was physically hurt by the blaze. However, there is great emotional pain among many of our children, parents, and teachers who have come to see St. Anthony like a second home.

“This experience deepens our belief in our core values. We continue to believe that every child deserves a Christian education that will help him or her develop as a person and reach their maximum potential as an individual. We also continue to believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and that he shows us the path to new life and conquers the darkness of our hearts. In the spirit of Jesus Christ, we choose to forgive this individual and we offer our prayers for healing and a new life.”

For information on textbook and instructional material donations, please visit www.gbdioc.org. Cash donations can be directed to the Associated Bank branch in Oconto Falls. Please mail donations to P.O. Box 8, Oconto Falls, WI 54154 or drop off in person at 134 N. Main St., Oconto Falls.