GREENDALE -- Mass on Christmas Day was even more significant than usual for St. Alphonsus Church in Greendale. One year ago, the church went up in flames on Christmas Eve. This year, worshippers congregated in the newly remodeled chapel, and also honored a four-legged hero.
St. Alphonsus Church reopened in July, but clergy and parishioners say Christmas Mass was the real reopening.
One year ago, on Christmas Eve, fire tore through the house of worship. Though the chapel was spared, smoke forced church leaders to turn away the congregation on Christmas Day.
"I thought about it last night before I went to bed and I prayed before I went to bed that it wouldn't happen again," parishioner Michael Curro said.
During Mass on Christmas Day, the pastor began the service by thanking those who saved the church from total destruction -- Greendale firefighters and Kirby the dog.
"If not for his need to go out at midnight, his owner never would've seen, what we call the strobe alarms going off, and so then they called the authorities and they got here in time to save the wall that separated the fire room from the rest of the structure," Pastor Alan Jurkus said.
The fire one year ago forced parishioners to give pause and appreciate their sanctuary.
Though Kirby the dog was formally honored during Christmas Mass, he has spent the last several months receiving thanks.
"He has a standing appointment on Friday mornings to come to the office and the secretaries are prepared to give him his treats. He knows exactly where to go," Jurkus said.
Investigators were never able to figure out what caused the fire. They were able to rule out the possibility of arson.