News & Commentary

Faithful respond to Midwest tornadoes, help storm victims ‘carry their cross’

Damaged buildings are seen in Sulphur, Okla., April 28, 2024, after the town was hit by a tornado the night before. Tornadoes killed at least four people in Oklahoma, including an infant, and left thousands without power after a destructive outbreak of severe weather flattened buildings in the heart of the rural town of Sulphur and injured at least 100 people across the state. (OSV News photo/Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman/USA Today Network via Reuters)

(OSV News) — Parishioners in several Midwestern states are coming together to bring help and healing after tornadoes ravaged the area April 26-28, killing at least four.

The storms — which along with tornadoes dumped heavy rain and hail on Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas — claimed four lives in Oklahoma, including that of an infant, and caused widespread destruction.

“We have experienced a pretty devastating time here in the Elkhorn area,” said Father Tom Fangman, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, Nebraska, in an April 28 video message posted to the parish’s Facebook page.

A previous post by the parish that same day said there were “over 30 families who have come to us for help and the applications just keep rolling in.”

On April 26, the Omaha suburb was devastated by what the National Weather Service assessed to be at least one EF3 tornado, with winds ranging from 136 to 165 miles per hour. Drone footage from local television station KETV showed homes leveled to the ground, with roofs sheared and structural walls badly damaged in others. Train cars were derailed about an hour away near Lincoln, Nebraska.

One Elkhorn family’s escape is being called “miraculous.”

KETV in Omaha reported that a bedridden father, unable to shelter before the twister’s impact, was shielded by his wife and son, who lay on top of him as their roof was torn away. The man sustained non-life-threatening injuries. While the home has been reduced to rubble, two crucifixes and an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary remained intact, still affixed to the remaining walls. A GoFundMe page for the family, whose last name has been listed as Sturgeon, has been set up by one of the son’s co-workers.

St. Francis Xavier Church in hard-hit Sulphur, Oklahoma — where at least one person died and 30 were injured — withstood the storm, but a number of parishioners lost their homes, a staff member at St. Joseph Catholic Parish in Ada, of which St. Francis Xavier is a mission church, told OSV News.

The disaster is a call to serve — and to witness to the love of Christ, said St. Patrick Parish in its Facebook message.

The parish, which has set up a relief fund, is working in concert with other local groups to organize humanitarian relief, and convened an April 29 volunteer meeting in its school cafeteria.

“We need you. … We ask you to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to help and if you can be part of this,” said the parish in its post. “Lives have been turned upside down and people have nothing. Let’s be in this mess with them and help them carry their cross. And let’s show our community that life isn’t going on for everyone else but them. We are the Body of Christ.”

By Gina Christian | OSV News