When the first of two arson fires was set at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Woburn last March, members of the Knights of Columbus, displaying their devotion to the Catholic Church, began thinking of ways to raise money to help repair the damage.
On Sept. 12, the Woburn Knights of Columbus kicked off the ‘‘St. Charles Restoration Fund Dinner Dance,’’ which they had been planning for months. Over 250 people turned out for a night of dining and live entertainment, held at the Crestview in Woburn.
"It was a huge success," said Grand Knight of Woburn Council 77 and a 31-year parishioner at St. Charles, Walter Desharnais. "The spirit of God was truly present." Desharnais, along with other members of the council, organized the fundraiser.
The mayor of Woburn, John Curran, parishioners and priests from St. Charles and neighboring parishes, the K of C State Deputy Thomas Ledbetter and members of the Tewksbury, Billerica, Saugus, Winchester, Malden, Lexington and Woburn Councils attended to show their support for the restoration of the parish.
"People have been talking for days that it was the best event that they have ever been to," said Desharnais. "The fact that we brought all these councils in was very impressive."
Desharnais had predicted that the dinner dance would raise between $3,000-$4,000 for the parish. However, the event has thus far raised over $11,000 — and checks are still coming in.
Informing Father Timothy Shea, the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, of the outcome of the fundraiser, Desharnais joked, “I’m sorry we couldn’t raise $3,000 to $4,000, Father. I apologize… but we do have a check for over $11,000 for you.”
"He was ecstatic," said Desharnair of Father Shea.
Father Patrick Kelly, senior priest in residence at St. Charles Borromeo for the past three years, was also thrilled.
"The response was tremendous," he said. "The pastor was very much delighted... [the fundraiser] manifests the spirit that has always been there. There has always been tremendous support from the parishioners here."
Thomas DeBlois, music director at St. Charles and member of the Woburn Knights of Columbus, was touched by the number of people who attended the event.
"The turnout alone showed that people are committed to raising the extra funds needed to restore the church," he said.
The two arson fires, in March and again in July, resulted in approximately $500,000 of damage to the upper and lower church. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Woburn Police and Fire Departments are currently investigating the fires.