‘A little miracle in our big tragedy’

By | March 7, 2012


Jason Sinclair examines his son Sam’s rosary after removing it from the plastic case in which it was stored. Sam, a third grader at St. Anthony School in Oconto Falls, kept the rosary in his locker at school, which sustained severe damage in a Feb. 21 fire. The rosary case, which was completely melted, was retrieved and the Sinclair family was surprised to find the rosary inside sustained little damage. (Courtesy of Kim Sinclair | For The Compass)

A year earlier, Kim and her husband, Jason, had given Sam a rosary in celebration of his first Communion. Rosemary Marifke, principal at St. Anthony School, had brought the rosary, which was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI, back from the Vatican and donated it to the school auction. Kim placed the winning bid.

“The plastic case that it was in was destroyed,” said Kim. “The case was completely melted and fused to look like a plastic ball. We thought for sure that the rosary was also destroyed.”

St. Anthony School update

A 16-year-old boy remained in custody after admitting that he was involved in setting fires at the school. Damages from the Feb. 21 blaze are estimated at $2 million. The Oconto Falls Police Department released a cause for a 2006 fire at St. Anthony Church. That fire was caused by candles placed on the floor, which ignited a section of carpet. Fortunately, the fire burned itself out.

Jason was able to remove the case to reveal the wooden beads and metal chain. With the exception of one missing bead, the rosary appears unscathed.

“I was amazed,” said Kim. “A lot of the kids’ rosaries didn’t make it.”

Third through fifth grade students at St. Anthony pray the rosary each Wednesday. The children even dress up and act out the mysteries. Classes were canceled the day after the fire and a snowstorm closed school the following Wednesday. When the rosary service returns, the students will be ready. Kim found a donor in a friend she met by chance when she was 16.

“I was working at the Ben Franklin store in Seymour,” she explained. “A (religious) sister who had come into the store, sent a letter complimenting me for being so nice and for my smile. I was given a quarter an hour raise because of that letter.”


Sam Sinclair, a third grader at St. Anthony School in Oconto Falls, holds the rosary given to him on his first Communion. It was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI and survived the Feb. 21 fire that severely damaged St. Anthony School.

Kim later tracked down the sister. Her mother had saved the note, and she was able to locate her one-time customer from information included in a Compass story. The two developed a friendship. The sister and her order, which wish to remain anonymous, responded to the needs of the school.

“Not only did they donate enough rosaries for the students and parents, but they gave rosary guides, Stations of the Cross pamphlets, figurines and statues of Mary and Jesus,” said Kim. “It was so nice.”

Sam now keeps his recovered rosary in his first Communion box. He will use one of the donated rosaries at school. St. Anthony students resumed classes on Feb. 27 at Grace Lutheran Church in Oconto Falls. Kim, whose other son, Ben, is a first grader at St. Anthony, said the school children are making the adjustment.

“Kids seem to bounce back,” she said. “It’s a lot smaller space, but they are happy to be with their friends. The Tuesday Mass (Feb. 28) was very emotional.”

Kim added that St. Anthony School parents are planning to do something special for the Grace Lutheran community as a gesture of appreciation. The outpouring of support stands out, she said.

“It’s just amazing how everybody has stepped up to help,” said Kim. “The teachers are just phenomenal how they picked up and moved forward. Hopefully, we can rebuild with the help of our community.”


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