A freshman at St. Lawrence Seminary High School is in juvenile detention charged with burglary and theft from one of two historic buildings destroyed by a March 8 fire that drew firefighters from 41 fire departments over a five-county area.

Eduardo Meza of Chicago, an employee of Sid Grinker Restoration of Milwaukee, wipes dirt and soot from a windowsill in the Laurentianum office and classroom building at St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mt. Calvary. The building sustained smoke and water damage during a March 8 fire that destroyed two adjacent buildings. Restoration crews from Milwaukee and Chicago worked to get the Laurentianum building cleaned in time for classes. (Catholic Herald photo by Steve Wideman)The news came as recovery and restoration work began on a third, adjoining building firefighters saved from destruction.

Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Capt. Rick Olig confirmed the 15-year-old student from Wisconsin was charged March 21 in juvenile court with breaking into and taking an undisclosed amount of money from St. Joseph Hall, leveled along with an adjoining chapel in the blaze.

“He was taken into custody as a result of the investigation into the fire,” Olig said.

The student was arrested when investigators discovered the money missing from the ruins of the 142-year-old St. Joseph Hall, but Olig said authorities are not discussing details surrounding the case, what initially led authorities to the student or a possible link between the burglary and fire.

The cause of the fire is listed as suspicious, Olig said.

Olig said the student was arrested at the seminary before students left for spring break, which ended on Sunday, March 23.

When arrested, Olig said, the student possessed “an amount of money consistent with what was discovered missing” from the seminary.

Olig confirmed the money was taken from an area of St. Joseph Hall affected by the fire, but said that doesn’t mean the student was responsible for the fire.

Authorities were expected to continue their investigation on Monday, when students were back in school.
“We want to talk to his dormitory mates,” Olig said.

Meanwhile, 50 restoration specialists and other craftsmen working for Sid Grinker Restoration of Milwaukee worked throughout the weekend to repair smoke and water damage to the four-story Laurentianum building.

That building, separated from St. Joseph Hall by an elevator structure with a fire wall, escaped fire damage. The building houses classrooms and seminary administrative offices.

The work crews, from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas, removed tens of thousands of books and furniture A hollowed out structure is all that remains of the St. Joseph Hall, leveled by fire on March 8. (Catholic Herald photo by Steve Wideman)from classrooms and offices for cleaning. Virtually every indoor surface of the building was repainted or varnished to remove most of the smoke odor before classes resumed.

“We needed the smoke and water damage cleaned up so we could have classes in there (when school resumed after spring break),” Capuchin Fr. John Holly, seminary president, said on Sunday.

Fr. Holly said school officials have not yet calculated the cost of damages due to the fire.

Firefighters were called to the seminary shortly after 5 a.m. on March 8 on reports of smoke and flames coming from two buildings in an area of the campus separated from most of the other buildings.

Because of the intensity of the flames, firefighters put their efforts into saving the Laurentianum building, said Mt. Calvary Fire Chief Mark Petrie.

While the former chapel, as large as a full-sized church, was used primarily for storage and some offices, St. Joseph Hall housed the school’s music department and some faculty offices, Fr. Holly said.

The fire struck at the same time the school is undertaking a multi-million dollar remodeling of St. Anthony Hall, a residential facility on the campus.

Fr. Holly said planning is already underway to replace the building destroyed in the fire.

“We are going to be rebuilding. We don’t know yet just what we will rebuild,” he said.

The reconstruction work could include a life-sized statue of St. Joseph the Carpenter, rescued from a portion of the facade still standing on St. Joseph Hall. The statue received minor damage.

Holly said offers of musical instruments lost in the blaze are pouring into the school.

“People are donating and calling in seeking to donate musical instruments all the time,” Fr. Holly said. “The response has been good. It’s been great.”

Forty seminary students were scheduled to travel from Mt. Calvary to Kohler to participate in a solo and ensemble competition on the morning of the fire.

Although the students initially withdrew from the competition because their instruments and music were destroyed in the fire, Fr. Holly said organizers of the competition agreed to travel to Mt. Calvary over the next two week to judge students using borrowed or donated instruments.

“The students will be getting a chance to compete,” Fr. Holly said.

A fund has been established to help the school replace the destroyed instruments.

Donations can be sent to “St. Lawrence Seminary Music Fund, c/o National Exchange Bank, 516 Fond du Lac Street, Mt. Calvary, WI, 53057” or dropped off at any National Exchange Bank office.