- Associated Press - Thursday, December 29, 2016

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Maintenance workers cleaning up a Loras College building that was devastated by a fire have found a box filled with religious items dating back more than 50 years.

The north building of the Visitation Complex caught fire in March after being struck by lightning, the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2hx1Ecj ) reported. No one was injured in the massive blaze, but the building that is more than 126 years old was deemed a total loss and is slated for demolition.

Loras maintenance workers recently retrieved the cross that long adorned the complex. In it, they found a small copper box filled with religious statuettes, prayer cards, medallions, a rosary and a prayer to St. Agatha to specifically protect the building from burning.

Loras Center for Dubuque History archivist Michael Gibson said the prayer was “prophetic.” He said the items in the box were mostly undamaged.

“There were a couple things that looked like they had been heated up because they were wax,” Gibson said. “Some of the wax was melted, but there was one little statuette that was … pure wax and had not been damaged at all.”

The archivist, along with college employee Sister Bernadine Curoe, said nobody in the building fire was hurt thanks to the St. Agatha prayer in the box.

While Gibson and Curoe have worked to learn more about the box’s items, it’s still not known who put it there in the first place.

“In my younger days, we used to wear bigger rosaries on our sides (similar to the one found in the box,” Curoe said. “I was surprised about the size of the rosary, and at first, I thought it was one we had worn. But when I lifted it, I knew it was too heavy for that.”

She added that Gibson said someone told him it was a relic “touched to” St. John Vianney.

“It’s a mystery - a mystery of the rosary,” Curoe said.

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