Parish center in Plymouth church targeted by arsonist

Blazes quickly extinguished

PLYMOUTH – Firefighters battled at least two fires that were set early Tuesday inside an office at the parish center for St. Bonaventure’s Parish, and in the aftermath of the fire, electronic devices were discovered stolen, officials said.

The St. Bonaventure’s pastor, the Rev. Kenneth C. Overbeck, said in an interview that the fires were troubling, but added that he hoped the parish would operate on as close to a normal schedule as possible in the coming days.

John Tlumacki/ Globe Staff
Rev. Kenneth C. Overbeck

“We are doing OK,’’ he said while standing near the church at 799 State Road. “It’s a little bit rattling as anything like this would be for the staff, and for me. But the damage is limited to office space.’’


Overbeck said he celebrated Mass Tuesday as scheduled and that the current plan is to hold religious education classes inside the parish center.

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“We are going to function as best we can,’’ he said. “That’s the plan. What the reality will be — that’s another thing. But that’s the plan.’’

Overbeck said neither he nor anyone connected to the parish has been the subject of any kind of threat. He added that he had no idea why the office was broken into and why the fires were allegedly set.

“It’s a surprise,’’ Overbeck said of the crimes. “I can’t even begin to speculate on the motivation of somebody who would break in. Why they would set a fire is just beyond me.’’

Plymouth Fire Deputy Chief Stanley Eldridge said in a telephone interview that firefighters responded to the one-story wooden parish center around 2:35 a.m. Tuesday, having been alerted by the building alarm system, which is connected to the fire department’s dispatch center.


“The fires were intentionally set,’’ Eldridge said. “I cannot comment on any type of accelerant. I am not even sure if one was used.’’

Eldridge declined to provide details because of the ongoing investigation but said fires were intentionally set in two or three spots inside the office in the center.

“I don’t believe there was any damage to the structure,’’ said Eldridge. “There were fires that were in the incipient stage. But because of early detection – and we have a fire station virtually next door to the building – we had a quick response and were able to contain it.’’

The fires caused an estimated $10,000 in damage, Eldridge said.

Eldridge said the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been alerted because the building is owned by a religious organization. He also said that State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan’s office is investigating, along with Plymouth fire and police officials.


Eldridge said he does not recall the fire department responding to the church or the parish center in the recent past.

John R. Ellement can be reached at