Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Future uncertain

Church’s fate uncertain after storm | Quad-City Times

By Deirdre Cox Baker | Comments(0)

IOWA CITY — The tornado that spared parishioners of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church from harm has resulted in an uncertain future for the historic structure itself, which was nearly destroyed Thursday night by winds estimated at 150 mph.

“We will meet with the diocese and insurance people today to get an idea of the scope of the damage. We’ll assess that and make a determination as to what to do,” the Rev. Rudy Juarez said Monday.

“Our immediate need is cash to work with,” he said. “We need cash for mobility.”

The Catholic Diocese of Davenport will work with the congregation to determine its future, but what happens next will really be driven by the local parish community, said David Montgomery, a diocese spokesman. “It will take some time to figure all this out,” he added.

St. Patrick’s has a Gothic design and was built in 1898 of red brick. It was the original Irish parish in downtown Iowa City and is located not far from two other Catholic parishes in Iowa City: St. Mary’s and St. Wenceslaus. Neither of those churches suffered any storm damage.

St. Patrick’s has a membership of 1,300 families, including some 150 Hispanic families who have joined since Juarez was assigned the church almost two years ago and added a weekly Spanish-language service.

There is some precedent for dealing with such a disaster in the Davenport Diocese. In 1997, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Muscatine, Iowa, was destroyed by fire. That parish temporarily held services in a downtown building, but its members eventually merged with two other Catholic churches in Muscatine, St. Mary’s and St. Matthias, Montgomery said.

A rebuilding fund has been established for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Donations should be made payable to the St. Patrick’s Church Rebuild Account and sent to: Hills Bank & Trust, c/o Roger Reilly, 1401 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City, IA 52240.

Looking at my map from last July, it's clear from an outsider's standpoint the problems faced by St. Patrick's.

St. Mary's is only five blocks north and St. Wenceslaus another three. In an era of closing and merging parishes, it creates a dilemma that is not easily solved. However, if the parish does have one thing going for it, it is the 150 Spanish-speaking families. That kind of ministry is not easily absorbed by other parishes that lack pastors with the necessary language skills to offer a Mass in Spanish.

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