June 13, 2008

Area flood victims find shelter in parishes

By Sean Gallagher

The massive amount of rain that hit central and southern Indiana on June 6 and 7 caused flooding in many communities that hadn’t been matched for nearly 100 years. (Learn about how you can help)

As of the deadline for this week’s issue of The Criterion, no archdiocesan parish had reported flood-related damage, but at least two archdiocesan parishes reached out to help those affected by the floods.

On the morning of June 7, St. Martin of Tours Parish in Martinsville was opened as a Red Cross shelter for flood victims.

Father John Hall, the parish’s pastor, said approximately 100 people took shelter there from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on June 7. At that time, they left on school buses to head to another shelter where they spent the night.

Many people in Martinsville were still in shelters early in the week.

“They lost everything,” Father Hall said in a June 9 interview with The Criterion. “They have nothing. They’re condemning buildings here now.”

Red Cross volunteers did most of the work at St. Martin of Tours. Father Hall was present to the flood victims as a way of living out “the Gospel message of walking with people in their time of need.”

“Right now, words don’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s ‘Can I get you a cup of coffee?’ ‘Do you need a drink of water?’ ”

After seeing to the physical needs of the flood victims who came to his parish, Father Hall said that he offered their sufferings up during the Masses he celebrated that weekend.

“I was able to put that on the paten along with the many grains of wheat that formed the bread,” he said.

Father Hall was impressed by the gratitude shown by people who had lost so much.

“As people were leaving on the bus,” he said, “they yelled out from the windows, ‘Thank you for everything.’ ”

Flood waters rose rapidly later in the day on June 7 in Columbus, where Columbus Regional Hospital had to be evacuated.

Father Clement Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, said that about 20 people who came to the parish’s 5 p.m. Mass and a concert in the parish church afterward were forced to stay in the church’s lower level and the parish rectory.

All roads going in and out of Columbus were cut off by flood waters.

“I was glad that we had the space for them,” Father Davis said. “I felt badly that the guests from out of town were left to sit in our lower level, and we didn’t have anything very comfortable for them. But they were all just very grateful to be in some place … ”

In Edinburgh, which received a reported 10.9 inches of rain in a three-hour span on June 7, Holy Trinity Parish, which sits on a high hill in the town, was forced to cancel all weekend Masses.

Father Davis, who had attended the priesthood ordination in Indianapolis earlier in the day, was in the last group of motorists traveling on southbound Interstate 65 before it was closed south of Indianapolis.

“Just north of the exit for Edinburgh and Flat Rock, we had to drive through rushing water that was rushing over the southbound lanes,” he said.

Father Davis and Father Hall both acknowledged that their parishioners and their wider communities will be dealing with the aftereffects of the floods for a while to come.

“It will be some time assessing what all the needs are,” Father Davis said. “I’ve got a list here of people to contact to see where they are and what help they need.” †

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