Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In wake of tornado, Catholics come together to offer aid

Not much remains of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Joplin, Mo., except for its cross.

Kyle Schott of Cape Girardeau visited the church site this week while coordinating Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri's response to the May 22 tornado.

"My initial thoughts were how did anybody survive any of this," he said.

St. Mary's priest, the Rev. Justin Monaghan was in the church rectory, seeking shelter in the bathroom, when the tornado hit.

Schott said the church and school were "leveled." The building's roof and most of its walls are gone, but you can still see the bathtub where Monaghan waited out the storm.

"No words or pictures can do it any kind of justice," Schott said.

Catholics have come together in this crisis and through Catholic Charities are working to help their brothers and sisters in Christ and all those in need.

"Our mission isn't just to help Catholics. It's to help anybody and everybody," said Schott, who serves as interim director for Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to the Rev. James Johnston, bishop of the The Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, which Johnston shared during Sunday Masses, Schott said.

The letter said the pope has followed the aftermath of the tornado with "deep concern."

"Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks God the Father of mercies to grant eternal rest to the departed, consolation to the grieving, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured," the letter stated.

The Rev. Thomas Kiefer of St. Mary's Cathedral in Cape Girardeau said the pope's messages shows just how connected Catholics are.

"To have that support and prayer for those whose really been affected, it shows that it sure is a worldwide effort and a worldwide church," Kiefer said.

Churches within the diocese are taking up special offerings to assist tornado victims, Kiefer said.

Catholic Charities and its partner churches quickly mobilized to assist after the tornado struck, he said.

McAuley Regional Catholic High School in Joplin served as a temporary emergency room and shelter following the storm, Schott said.

Catholic Charities is now using the school as a distribution center for emergency goods.

Schott said Joplin has been flooded with donations from across the United States.

"The immensity of the donations that have come in has been overwhelming," he said. "We have two gyms full of goods."

Water, food, clothing, cleaning supplies, toiletries are all being distributed at the school.

Schott suggested holding off on donations of these items as the needs of the residents will soon change as they find temporary housing.

"As people find some semipermanent housing the need will shift in a few weeks to things like pots and pans, sheets, towels, beds and furniture," Schott said.

He worked most of last week in Joplin and returned home to Cape Girardeau on Monday.

For more information on Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri's tornado relief efforts, visit

1 comment:

  1. He dips His index finger into the atmosphere and gives it a little stir. Houses flattened, hospitals gutted, hundreds dead ... it's Miller time.