Despite Kentucky tornadoes, Virgin Mary statue still stands—and Catholics offer help

A Marian statue stands before Resurrection Catholic Church in Dawson Springs, Ky., after the church was heavily damaged by a tornado Nov. 11, 2021. A Marian statue stands before Resurrection Catholic Church in Dawson Springs, Ky., after the church was heavily damaged by a tornado Nov. 11, 2021. | Photo courtesy of Fr. Carl McCarthy.

The deadly storms that hit nine states in the Midwest and the South produced an image of a statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child, seemingly untouched outside the damaged building of Resurrection Catholic Church.

Tina Casey, communications director with the Diocese of Owensboro, told CNA Dec. 13, “the statue is still standing, though the windows and doors are blown out and the roof missing.”

A photo of the statue published by the Evansville Courier & Press newspaper shows the statue outside the Dawson Springs church building, which suffered far more severe damage.

“This church will likely be considered a total loss,” Casey said. Among other Catholic churches in the diocese, St. Joseph in Mayfield also suffered significant damage.  

A series of storms and tornadoes passed through nine states, including Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, late Friday and early Saturday morning. Western Kentucky was hardest hit, with 74 deaths confirmed there as of Monday. Northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, and northwest Tennessee also suffered heavy damage. Across all affected states, the confirmed death total was 87, making the storms one of the deadliest in U.S. history, according to the Washington Post.

Bishop William Medley of Owensboro heads the Catholic diocese in western Kentucky.

“Though no one but the Lord can heal the broken hearts of those who have lost loved ones, I am humbled by the outpouring of support coming to us from around the country and the world,” Medley said in a statement to CNA. “Several bishops have communicated to me that they are asking their parishes to take up a collection for the tornado victims.  We received a written message from Pope Francis and he even prayed for Kentucky by name in his Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday. We know that when we are one in Christ, we are never alone.”

Casey told CNA that donations to local relief efforts are being funneled through the diocese’s Catholic Charities office.

“Right now, donations are being accepted online at with the designation to Tornado Relief – Catholic Charities,” she said.

Parishes in the Diocese of Owensboro took up a special collection at Masses over the weekend to support those affected or displaced by the storms.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged Catholics to help those affected by supporting the work of Catholic Charities USA.

On Sunday, Pope Francis made remarks after the Angelus to express his closeness to the victims of tornadoes and storms.

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