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Notre Dame fire reminds Orlando residents of 1976 cathedral fire

St. James named cathedral after fire ripped through St. Charles

ORLANDO, Fla. – People in the Orlando community say the destruction of Notre Dame reminds them of the devastation that hit their own church.

In October 1976, a fire tore through the original cathedral of the diocese of Orlando, St. Charles Borromeo. 

Former District Chief for the Orlando Fire Department Mike Kelly was married at the old church, and found himself saving the parish he called home. 

"The fire was spreading into the rectory, it was spreading, you can see marks down here," he recalled. 

"Unfortunately, everything on the inside was lost," Deacon Tom Pringle said.

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Renae Bennett was a student then, and now, she serves as the archivist for the diocese. 

"It was frightening seeing the damage to the church," she said. "The students were gathering funds, saying and doing donations to rebuild, there was talk of rebuilding immediately. How can we rise? How can we rise from this brokenness to make it whole again?" 

Within a year, the church was rebuilt. Now, it's a multipurpose room for the school.  

While some original pieces are still in place, upgrades were made to better protect the church after a bad light ended up being the cause of the fire. 

"It didn't get hurt at all from the structural standpoint," Kelly explained. 

The original crucifix is also on display. 

"The story of the fire has changed our history as a parish," Pringle said. 


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