Storms batter parish property in several communities

BLAIR – Several parishes in the archdiocese sustained damage June 3 when severe thunderstorms with hail as large as baseballs and strong winds roared through parts of Nebraska.

St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair and St. John the Baptist Parish in Fort Calhoun suffered some of the most extensive damage, while several parishes in the West Point and Norfolk areas also face repairs.

Wind and hail claims are covered for the archdiocese through Catholic Mutual Group, said Tim Hogan, Catholic Mutual’s claims risk manager for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

Although total damage amounts have not been calculated, several parishes sustained damage to windows, roofs, siding, gutters and heating and air-conditioning units, he said.

"It was a wide-ranging storm," Hogan said.

At St. Francis Borgia, a storm broke stained-glass windows in the church and windows in the education center, flooded parts of the church basement and damaged the roof and bell tower, said Father Mario Rapose, pastor of St. Francis Borgia and St. John the Baptist.

The storm broke windows and damaged the roofs at the rectory, church and Schwertley Hall (the parish education building) at St. John the Baptist, and cracked a glass front door of the church, he said. But the damage could have been worse, and St. Francis Borgia and St. John the Baptist are blessed with parishioners who generously volunteer their time and talents, Father Rapose said. True to form, several at both parishes helped during the storm and in the days after to cover broken windows, pick up glass and clean up the properties – including many with damage to their own property, he said.

"It’s nice to see people reaching out," Father Rapose said.

Nearly 20 young people and adults were among those responding on short notice June 5 at St. Francis Borgia to pick up tree limbs and leaves on the property.

Ranging from elementary age to recent high school graduates, many of the young people said they gladly gave up a morning of summer vacation to help.

"It’s our church, we need to take care of it," said Kelsey Camelin, a youth group member and recent graduate of Blair High School.

After wrapping up, the group huddled around Jeff Zurek, St. Francis Borgia’s youth ministry coordinator, for prayer and then enjoyed pizza in the social hall.

"I’m proud of the kids," Zurek said.

Father Gerald Gonderinger estimated up to $90,000 in damage at his parishes – St. Mary in West Point, where damage included broken windows; St. Anthony in St. Charles Township, which had major damage to the church roof and 24 tombstones blown over; St. Aloysius in Aloys, where a light pole was toppled, clay roof tiles from the church were blown away and hail damaged a window in the rectory; and St. Boniface in Monterey, which had major roof and window damage to the church, including shattered protective glass over stained-glass windows on the north side.

In addition, some parishioners lost sheds, barns and outbuildings, and many farm fields will have to be replanted.

"In some fields, it looks like bare ground," Father Gonderinger said.

Other parishes with damage:

• Sacred Heart Parish, Norfolk: At St. Mary Church, Sacred Heart Church, parish office, rectory, annex building, Norfolk Catholic Elementary School and Norfolk Catholic Junior/Senior High School, roof damage; broken, cracked windshields and dents on parish- and employee-owned vehicles, vans and school buses. At St. Mary Church, skylights broken; water damage to carpet, one row of pews.

• St. Leo Parish, Snyder: stained-glass windows damaged.

• St. Peter Parish, Fullerton: extensive damage to trees.

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