A fire that was intentionally set Monday has temporarily shut down services provided by the Saint Mary’s Convent in Marshalltown. Church Pastor, Monsignor Jim Miller, and says members of the Hispanic community have still been showing up seeking the help. “To renew their immigration status and looking for things like that,” Miller says. “It’s a challenge right now to figure out what we do next. But, the big challenge now is to get all the records and make copies.”
Police have charged 48-year old Van Allen Gentry with arson in connection with the fire. Monsignor Miller says they have a sizable Hispanic ministry. “We have 922 families that we serve. I’d guess that’s over 3,000 people certainly,” Miller says.
Miller is now seeking an alternative to the 85-year old convent building which has fire, water and smoke damage. Miller says, “It’s not a feasible thing to invest money into this building at this point.” Miller says it could be a couple of weeks before they are operating again. Gentry of Marshalltown faces two felony charges and is being held in the Marshall County Jail.
No one at the convent was hurt. Gentry reportedly confessed to setting another fire as well.