Illinois diocese prays for storm victims

Illinois Residents Cope With Aftermath Of Deadly Tornado Outbreak Credit Scott Olson Getty Images News Getty Images CNA US Catholic News 3 1 12 Workers begin to remove debris from the grounds of the 110-year-old St. Joseph's Catholic Church on March 1, 2012 in Ridgway, Illinois. | Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Diocese of Belleville prayed for victims and pledged its help after storms and tornados in southern Illinois killed at least six people and destroyed hundreds of buildings, including a Catholic church.

“We pray for the souls of those who were killed in the tornadoes. And we pray for the deliverance of all those who are injured and homeless,” Fr. John Myler, the diocese’s communications officer, told CNA March 1.

Six died in the town of Harrisburg, which was hardest hit. Five of the deceased lived in duplexes on the same street, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Over 300 buildings there were leveled by the Feb. 29 storm, whose winds reached up to 180 mph in speed. The National Weather Service has initially classified the tornado in its second most powerful category.

The town of Ridgway witnessed no loss of life, Fr. Myler said, but its gothic-style St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was “completely destroyed.”

He said that knowledge of the situation is “very difficult” because communication links are down.

“A lot of what we know we’re getting form the news, and from visiting and seeing,” the priest reported. A tornado is “a force of nature which is awesome but also, sometimes, awful.”

He said the local diocese has promised assistance for the victims.

“As the needs become more apparent, we are ready to react to the physical and the spiritual needs of the people. They have good pastors in those towns and parishes who are responding well,” Fr. Myler said.

Other storms hit Missouri, Kentucky, and Kansas in recent says causing additional deaths and heavy damage.

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