Catholic churches damaged in northeast US quake

St Patricks Roman Catholic Church in Fells Point Baltimore MD Credit Joe Thorn 2 CNA US Catholic News 8 24 11 St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Md. | Joe Thorn

Churches in the archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore suffered some damage in the Aug. 23 earthquake that shook the northeastern United States. The oldest church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will be closed for repairs for at least several weeks.

St. Patrick Catholic Church in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood has been deemed unsafe. Its steeple was badly damaged. Several concrete parts of it fell and one piece gouged the sidewalk.

Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore visited the church on the morning of Aug. 24 and reviewed the damage with parish administrator Fr. Robert Wojtek.

“We thank the Lord that no one was injured,” Archbishop O’Brien told The Catholic Review. “It will be a while before we reopen. We want to get back to business as usual as soon as we can, but everyone knows we want to play it safe.”

Repairs will selectively deconstruct and stabilize the steeple.

“The cranes are coming in, and they’re going to be here for a couple of months,” the archbishop said. “There’s great history here. We’re conscious of that, and that it (St. Patrick) has a lot more years of service. We’ll not compromise it in any way.”

The parish was founded in 1792 and its current church was built in 1898.

The church recently became a mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. The archdiocese will run shuttle buses to Sacred Heart of Jesus until the church repairs are complete.

Fr. Wojtek was showing a visitor around the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where he is pastor, when the earthquake tremors hit.

“The lights started to swing,” he said. “We were in the back of the church, and I thought a window had blown open in the choir loft. Two vigil candles fell, and one broke off. Then sirens started going off, and I knew it was something else.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore reported minor damage to two other churches, both in eastern Baltimore.

The church properties in the Archdiocese of Washington also suffered minor damage.

The chimney on the rectory at Holy Name parish in northeast Washington fell in the quake and hit two cars, though no one was hurt.

At St. Gabriel Parish in northwest Washington pieces of the ceiling fell in the sanctuary. The cross on the roof of St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill fell, also without injury to anyone. Mount Calvary Church in Forestville suffered damage to its steeple, while its K-8 school has sustained damage.

Facilities management employees are evaluating the extent of the damage, the Catholic Standard reports.

CNA contacted the Archdiocese of Washington for an update but did not receive a reply.

The unusual 5.8-magnitude quake hit before 2 p.m. on Monday. It caused “significant damage” to the central tower of the Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral.

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