St. Pius X on the Day of the Derecho
Each of us has a story to tell from August 10th, 2020. With so much of Iowa affected, Cedar Rapids took the greatest hit: homes, businesses, and many parishes suffered immense damage. We would like to share our story from that day, as many of the staff were not only present, but did their best to prevent further damage.
After the power went out, we took a brief walk outside to watch the darkening sky (we are Midwesterners after all!). Right after it started to rain, we stood in the Gathering Space. Three different people parked under the canopy looking for a refuge to wait out the storm. We let them inside and gathered towels to soak up water seeping under our outside doors. The sound was terrifying, shaking the glass panes, howling over the roof; we could almost feel the building shaking. That’s when it all started.
“IT’S RAINING ON THE PIANO!”
It began in the choir section. We covered the organ with plastic, moved the piano and chairs to another section of the church, but before long, every light fixture was pouring water like a showerhead. With a couple of us taking pictures and video for insurance, the rest of us began moving anything not nailed down.
The water, however, was not letting up. We grabbed every garbage can, recycling bin, pot and pan in the building to gather up water. We spent the next four hours rolling two large garbage bins around the church to empty out quickly filling pots, and emptying them outside.
The water stunk like mold and grime. Each of us soaked to the bone in wet shoes, we knew that stopping meant flooding. All we could hear was the endless pouring of water and screaming of one another where a pot had filled. Moving the Ambo, presider’s chair, and statues of Mary and Joseph took multiple people over slippery tile and around awkward corners. Miraculously, the Altar and Blessed Sacrament Chapel remained dry.
In the middle of the chaos, we stopped briefly to gather in the back Sacristy in front of the ‘old’ Tabernacle which now held Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. For a few moments, we cried in sadness, yelled in frustration, or just laughed at how bad we looked and smelled. We prayed fervently for our church, our parishioners, and our own battle with exhaustion, before returning to the church.
Those who had stopped at Pius for refuge stepped in to help, emptying bins and moving chairs. The water was still draining through the lights, meaning the ceiling was saturated. At this point, we began to worry about the ceiling collapsing (not knowing it was a concrete/plaster composite at the time). A few of the hanging lights filled up, tipped, and dumped water on the already soaked pews below. We knew there was no way to save the pews, and instead focused on salvaging everything else.
Hours after the skies finally cleared, a family of parishioners joined in the cleanup and Fr. Phil was able to leave his house to see the damage at the church. Though water still dripped from the lights, it was slowing, allowing us the opportunity to leave and investigate our own homes before returning the next day. Half of us expected the roof to cave in overnight. With the gathering space full of chairs, tables, statues, and everything else, we spent the next few days preparing Pius Hall for Mass, knowing full well that the Church was unusable.
The rest of the story is shared by everyone in town: It is up to insurance, contractors, and the generosity of our parishioners for our continued recovery. Together in prayer, and in continuing to keep Christ at the center of our lives, we move forward until we can worship together in our church.
- The total cost of cleaning and drying out the Parish, School, and Rectory was over $190,000.
- The estimated cost of repairs, roof, and pews will be around $1.6 million.
- Based on feedback from our parishioners, the Liturgy Commission, ushers, and approval from Parish Council, we redesigned our pew layout to gather together in worshipping our Lord. We are so excited to share the layout below:
December 10, 2020
The roof is well underway. The crews are here and hard at work to complete the new roof. The inside crews are working to repair the ceilings in our worship space.
November 13, 2020
We are making steady progress on repairs to our buildings after the derecho. The old pews will disappear on Tuesday.
This past week the roof materials were delivered, and hopefully the roof replacement will be completed by the first week of December. Once the roof is finished, work on the interior of the church can begin. That will take about three months.
The new pews are tentatively scheduled to be delivered in mid-March.
Of course, everything is dependent on weather, the presence of COVID, and a steady work schedule. If everything works out, my goal is to be back in church by Easter.
The rectory still needs some extensive work before the onset of winter, with the rest of the work to be done next spring.
Continue to pray for a successful completion to these projects, which will cost well over $1 million, the bulk of which will be paid by insurance. But there are certain things not paid by insurance, so be sure to please keep that in mind when you fill out your stewardship commitment for this year.
On Monday, August 10, 2020, an unprecedented storm, now referred to as a derecho hit our area and St. Pius X Church, St. Pius X School and our rectory were all severely damaged. We feel as though we will have many months of repairs ahead of us.