Floorboards damaged by floodwater at the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant, Mo., are seen July 26, 2022. CNS photo/Jacob Wiegand, St. Louis Review
Floorboards damaged by floodwater at the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant, Mo., are seen July 26, 2022. CNS photo/Jacob Wiegand, St. Louis Review

ST. LOUIS CNS – Several churches in the Archdiocese of St. Louis were affected by heavy rainfall that came through the St. Louis area early in the morning July 26.

Portions of St. Louis, St. Charles, Warren, Lincoln and Montgomery counties received about 8 to 10 inches of rain by 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. More rain was forecast for the area, prompting concerns about additional flooding.

The Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant was among the hardest hit, receiving about 3 feet of water in the convent, shrine and rectory buildings and about 2 feet in the schoolhouse, said shrine director Carol Campbell.

The shrine is one of the oldest settlements in Missouri, and where St. Rose Philippine Duchesne lived from 1819-27 and again from 1834-40.

Two creeks flank the front and back of the shrine property, and this isn't the first time the historic property has had damage from flooding, Campbell said. "Even when Mother Duchesne was here, it flooded," she said, adding that the last time the shrine experienced flooding was in 2013.

Parts of the floor of the shrine church have buckled, and there was some damage to the walls. Historic artifacts, including a pew from the 1789 log cabin and pews from the 1821 church, are kept in elevated places and did not sustain damage. A GoFundMe for restoration efforts has been set up at gofund.me/422dae6f.

"So far, there is nothing that has not been damaged on the first floor of any of the four buildings," Campbell told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper. "It's pretty devastating, but having said that, nobody was hurt and that's a plus."

St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis sustained damage to the church roof over the adoration chapel, which unleashed a flood inside, said pastor Father Steve Giljum.

"We believe lightning struck the bell tower, which caused the roof of the (adoration) chapel in the church to cave in," he said. Water poured through the opening in the bell tower and rushed through chapel and into the main aisle of church.

"There was a pretty epic flood in church," he said. The parish basement also experienced some flooding.

The rectory at St. Monica Parish in Creve Coeur had several inches of water, which have since subsided, said Father Tim Foley, retired priest in residence. The church and school buildings were not affected.

"There was maybe five inches of water in the basement," Father Foley said. "Apparently the sewer backed up and couldn't take all of the water. Luckily we didn't get feet, we just got inches."

A 20-foot section of a stone retaining wall collapsed outside St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, according to Abbé Alex Barga.

"It looks like the water got in there and pushed the stones out," he said. "There were some leaks in the old convent building, and one place in the church, but nothing serious." Efforts were already underway to store the collapsed stones and repair the wall.

St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles reported several minor leaky spots in the buildings. Some water came in through the exterior doors of the gymnasium, but overall the damage was minimal, according to business manager Joe Gogel.

Father Art Cavitt, pastor of St. Nicholas Parish in St. Louis, reported leaks in the roofs of the rectory and gym, and minor flooding in the church basement. Several drains were opened to keep the water from rising any further.

Portions of the lower level at Annunziata School also had flood damage, including a computer lab and cafeteria, according to parish officials. The water has since receded, with cleanup efforts underway.

The archdiocesan Office of Risk Management works with churches and schools in the archdiocese to coordinate insurance claims through its third-party administrator, Gallagher Bassett Services Inc., and Belfor for water damage restoration.

 

Brinker is a reporter for the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis, the newspaper and magazine of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.