A parish church in southern Indiana that dates to the late 19th century had its roof ripped off in a windstorm Friday.
Photos shared by the Diocese of Evansville show the roof of St. Joseph Parish church, which is located in rural Vanderburgh County, lying in a crumpled heap nearby.
Father Gene Schroeder, the church’s pastor, told CNA that the roof came off shortly after a funeral took place in the church and while class was in session at the nearby parish school. Miraculously, no one was injured.
Schroeder said powerful straight-line winds lifted the metal roof — which was about 10 years old — entirely off, depositing debris largely in the parking lots as well as in a neighbor’s yard and driveway. He said neither the school, rectory, nor the parish office sustained any damage. The windstorm caused thousands of power outages in the Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois tri-state area and damaged a hospital in Evansville, local outlet 14 News reported.
The owners of the home across the street from the church told 14 News that they had gotten married at the church 59 years ago. They said that they saw, through their front window, the ripped-off roof barreling toward them and are thankful that the roof hit their garage and not their window.
Schroeder said because there is a plaster ceiling above the sanctuary, the interior of the church did not sustain any damage. He said crews are in the process of putting a temporary cover over the roof to prevent water damage, since rain is forecast for later this week.
The parish community is one of the oldest in the diocese, having been established in 1841. The original church building was destroyed in a fire in 1886 and rebuilt two years later.
“Back when the church burned down in 1886, they didn’t have any insurance,” Schroeder noted.
“But we have insurance. I don’t know if that will cover the whole cost, but we’re blessed because we do have insurance and we’ve had insurance adjusters out there and people working with them without too much difficulty at all.”
Despite the damage to the church, the parish was still able to host its parish fish fry the day that the windstorm occurred.
Schroeder said he has been heartened by other faith communities in the county extending offers of prayers and material support, including St. Paul’s United Church of Christ and a local community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Above all, the Catholic community is eager to help rebuild their historic church, he said. He also said many of the workers helping to fix the church have connections to the parish.
“This is a small little country parish in a lot of ways, and people love the church. And of course, they’re kind of heartbroken by seeing [the roof] down, but they just want to do everything they can to fix it up,” the pastor said.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Our mission is the truth. Join us!
Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.