Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri (CCSOMO) deployed four experienced disaster-response case managers from Joplin on May 24 to the tornado-ravaged area surrounding Moore, OK. The CCSOMO staffers will be in Oklahoma for two weeks and provide services out of the Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCS) that are being established throughout the storm-ridden region. One of the Joplin workers, Andrea Minor, was also deployed to New York in response to Hurricane Sandy. “I am honored to make use of the skills I learned in Joplin to help our neighbors in Oklahoma,” Minor said. Read more
Just days shy of two-year anniversary of Joplin tornado, St. Mary Parish breaks ground on new parish plantBy: The Mirror staff Joplin MO
“Each of our lives is made up of many ‘chapters,’ and so it is also with a parish family,” said Bp. James V. Johnston to the joyous crowd gathered Thu., May 16, at West 32nd Street and Central City Road in Joplin. “It is a joy and a blessing to be able to begin this new chapter for St. Mary Parish today with this groundbreaking for our new church and school.” Read more
Beginning mid-May, a week full of commemorative events helped the people of Joplin and the world remember and honor the events of May 22, 2011. A year after a devastating tornado ripped through the southwest Missouri town citizens continue to rebuild their lives and their community.
A variety of events, ranging from a half-marathon to a presidential address at Joplin High School’s commencement, were planned around the May 22 anniversary of the 2011 Joplin tornado. There were many moments that were specific to the Catholic community in Joplin in honor of the loss of St. Mary Catholic Church and School and all those affected by the storm in the parishes of St. Mary and St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Churches.
On Sat., May 19, a memorial concert featuring contemporary Christian musical artists Steve Angrisano and Tony Melendez was held in the McAuley Catholic High School gymnasium. It was a time for a little over 200 people to reflect and remember what was lost, but at the same time look forward to the continued recovery.
“Steve and Tony both delivered their performances in an interactive way for the benefit of a very enthusiastic crowd,” said Renee Motazedi, development director of the Joplin Catholic Schools (JACSS). “Many commented afterward how much Steve and Tony’s ministry meant to them on that night in their healing journey.”
More than $1,000 in proceeds from this event benefited the JACSS scholarship fund, which was established in the aftermath of the tornado in an effort to help those affected by the storm continue their Catholic education.
The huge iron cross that still stands vigil over the landscape of the former St. Mary Catholic Church in Joplin stood high above the Catholic faithful of Joplin on Tue., May 22, for a rosary that commemorated the anniversary of the events of the disastrous tornado that destroyed the church and school. The cross has remained an icon in Joplin since the storm and has become a place where people go to pray and reflect, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. It is one of the most photographed structures throughout Joplin. There are accounts of people trapped in the storm’s aftermath in their destroyed homes who could see the cross looming in the sky, which gave them hope.
The cross will remain at the site as a memorial
Students, faculty, and many staffers of JACSS as well as parishioners from St. Mary Church and St. Peter Church, and other citizens, prayed the rosary together on what was a sunny afternoon, a sharp contrast to the same day a year earlier.
The rosary was led by Sharon Reeve, a teacher at St. Mary Catholic School. She was helped by student representatives who read petitions throughout the service. Students also led the crowd in song singing “Ave Maria” and “Father We Adore You.”
“We stand on sacred ground today,” Bp. James V. Johnston said before the rosary. The bishop invited those in attendance to remember all the events that took place on this ground before the tornado: baptisms, weddings, Masses, and the learning that took place in St. Mary School. The bishop reflected that while the storm took away the physical buildings, it did not take away the church and school. The church and the school are made up of people, the bishop said—many of them there at the prayer service—therefore the church remains strong and present.
“We gather here today to acknowledge what happened a year ago that changed school and church life,” Bp. Johnston said. “But we also gather here to give thanks to the Lord for the many blessings that he has given this past year. Even out of tragedy and destruction, there is power, and the power of His love brings forth new life.”
“You have shown your true colors during the course of this year,” Bp. Johnston said, “and it is a reminder that you are the school—you are the church.”
Fr. Justin Monaghan, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, described what the past year has been like for the people of St. Mary’s.
“Emotionally, it has been a very difficult year,” said Fr. Monaghan, who himself rode out the 2011 tornado in the rectory bathtub. “It is tremendous what St. Peter Parish has done for us and we are grateful. However, we feel homeless, and feel like we don’t see each other anymore. We are trying to get past that and are grateful for a temporary building that is in the plans.” St. Mary Catholic Church recently moved to a temporary location at 1230 E. 7th St., Joplin.
The plans for rebuilding St. Mary are progressing. Architects are being contracted and there has been a meeting where ideas were discussed between the bishop, building coordinators, Fr. Justin, and the parish council, who comprise the building committee. The land has been purchased and construction will begin shortly. The parish hopes that the church will be completed in two years, and will know more in the near future as the plans become more concrete.
Students from St. Mary Catholic School have been having classes at a temporary location, a refurbished warehouse next to McAuley Catholic High School and St. Peter Parish. Fr. Monaghan expressed excitement for the future of St. Mary and appreciation for people from all over the diocese who have given their time and resources to be a part of the rebuilding process.
“We are very grateful for the support and feel really good at how we have stayed together in difficult circumstances,” he said.
Later that evening at Mass in St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. Fr. John (J.) Friedel, pastor, celebrated the liturgy and focused on the events in Joplin one year ago. He reflected that they were preparing for evening Mass just before the tornado hit a year ago. He decided after the storm to stay and have Mass with those people who also wanted to stay.
“We gather on the anniversary that changed our lives as people of faith,” Fr. Friedel said in his homily. “We stayed that night to pray, we have prayed throughout the year, and tonight we will continue to pray.” He spoke of how the storm that night affected their parish family and encouraged the congregation to “pray for each other, that we may do what God calls us to do until we are called from this world to the next.”
Throughout the events and various speeches surrounding the anniversary of the tornado that changed a city and a community forever, the resounding message was one of pride for what the people of Joplin have accomplished in the face of this adversity despite their grief. The people tearfully acknowledge what they have lost, for example, 161 of their neighbors who perished in the storm. However, much like St. Mary’s cross that couldn’t be destroyed, Joplin heralds hope and resiliency and is still standing: The damaged buildings and city are being rebuilt and a loving community looks with hope toward the future.
Bp. Johnston blessed facility April 18
The startling thing in first seeing the new Mercy Hospital Joplin–the factory built, trucked-in replacement for the building destroyed by last May’s tornado–is how attractive and permanent it looks. Joplin has a new hospital as of mid-April, and this one isn’t tents or trailers.
The new facility will offer patients all the comforts and most services they would expect from a Mercy hospital. With steel construction that is sturdier than the old St. John’s Regional Medical Center, the new Mercy building is a testament to modern technology and overtime workers coming together to build a complete hospital in eight months.
“This is a day in which we celebrate another chapter in the life of the community of Joplin and the vital place that the Mercy Healthcare System has had in that story,” Bp. James V. Johnston said April 18. “Since the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Joplin until now, the mission of Catholic Health Care has been active in this city.”
The new facility includes a full-scale emergency department. Surgeons can again conduct complex, open-heart procedures. Mercy doctors can deliver babies again. Patients can rest in rooms with monitoring features, communication capabilities and private bathrooms they’d expect in any hospital. The two-story inpatient wings can accommodate more than 100 patients if demand warrants. A cafeteria, gift shop, pharmacy, and chapel complete the picture.
“It’s remarkable that we were able to get this topnotch facility up and running within eight months,” said Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Mercy. “Early in the recovery, we knew the community would need a true hospital while we build for the future. So we challenged the team to do it. We have our Sisters of Mercy to thank who came to Joplin in the late 1800s and showed us what a bias for action, determination and true grit can accomplish.”
Mercy has worked hard to turn this corner. Co-workers and contractors first opened a tent hospital a week after the disaster. They followed months later with a small hospital assembled from components, which look like trailers. The new Mercy Hospital not only houses employees and patients in a handsome and sturdy building, it also unveils some of the improvements coming to a rebuilt Joplin.
The state-of-the-art hospital, for one, has imaging technology that in many cases is newer and more powerful that what was used at St. John’s, such as a new CT scanner that captures images with twice the resolution. “Mercy co-workers are motivated by the progress they see,” said Drew Alexander, director of the emergency department.
The modular construction behind Mercy Hospital has changed dramatically since it began with trailers decades ago. The hospital’s construction began in a California factory, where workers at Walden Structures engineered and assembled large slices of the structure with the same steel, concrete and drywall used in site-built construction. Joplin workers at the same time prepared the property and laid the foundation, with the simultaneous work greatly reducing the build time.
The trick is hauling the huge modules across country. Trucks and a few trains carried the 224 modules, some 60 feet long by 14 feet wide and high, with drivers having to navigate some tight corners on routes that local Mercy planners helped find. Some units arrived more than 80-percent finished, leaving workers to bolt them together and weave across pipes and wires. Exterior and interior finishes transformed the modules into a hospital that’s indistinguishable from one conventionally built.
Tornado disaster or no, state and local codes remain stringent for hospital construction. Walden had to build a prototype and accommodate inspectors as it assembled the components. “We hired about 30 percent more workers and put in a lot of overtime to meet the schedule,” said Charlie Walden, founder and owner of Walden Structures.
“The resulting structure is actually 30 percent stronger than the requirements for Mercy’s old building, and the glass is rated to withstand winds of 200 mph,” said John Farnen, Mercy’s executive director of planning, design and construction. “This building exceeds code requirements.”
The modular technology also enabled construction to squeeze into the site, which is just across the road from the ruined St. John’s. Further south, Farnen is also overseeing construction of the next Mercy Hospital Joplin, whose conventional construction is emerging on a 100-acre campus across I-44. The future building will house 600,000 square feet versus a quarter of that in the new Mercy Hospital opening this month, but hospital co-workers already sense a return to normalcy.
Employees have been scattered across, and even outside, the Joplin area as Mercy held to its pledge to keep all 2,200 co-workers on the payroll. “I hear it all the time from co-workers, how we want to come back home, how we all miss each other,” said Marilyn Welling, director of medical surgical services at Mercy Hospital Joplin. “There is also a lot of pride — it was amazing that we all were willing to step out of our usual roles and keep Mercy going. And now we have a new hospital that will bring us back together.”
“As we mark this chapter today with the blessing of this beautiful building and those who will work here, we look forward to future chapters with the construction of the permanent hospital and its eventual completion,” Bp. Johnston said.
Mercy Hospital Joplin held its groundbreaking for its new hospital on Sun., Jan. 29. Among the many dignitaries on hand was Bp. James V. Johnston, Jr., who performed the blessing at the new campus. The former St. John’s Hospital was destroyed during the May 22 EF-5 tornado which hit the Joplin. The force of the winds literally moved the former hospital three inches off its foundation, rendering it unusable.
According to Mercy Clinics, a new, high tech, 29,000 square-foot portable building is being constructed to replace the mobile medical unit on the campus of Mercy Hospital Joplin. The new facility will be assembled and functioning in the fall of 2012. Services offered include intensive care (ICU), surgery, X-ray, pharmacy, patient rooms, cath lab, dialysis, MRI and CT services. This facility will be used for the next nine to twelve months while a prefabricated component hospital is erected.
The afternoon’s events began on the old campus where Scripture was read from Exodus 3. Then there was a procession to the new campus where the groundbreaking and blessing occurred. The bishop’s remarks made at the demolition site are presented in part below:
“The passage we just heard from the Book of Exodus is one of the few instances, those special instances, in which we heard God’s voice directly. … God tells Moses to become aware of the holy ground he is on. … Today, we too are aware of ‘holy ground’. …
This site, this ground we stand on, was the ground upon which many sacred moments occurred over the past decades: The ministry of healing, comforting, caring, praying. … In a few moments, we will go to another site, and new ground will be blessed and made holy for what will take place there in the years to come. … God will bless and make holy the work of our hands and the work of our hearts. …
Like Moses and the people he led through the desert, we realize that we, too, are [a people] on the move, each of us on an Exodus of our own through life. …
This ending and new beginning remind us that nothing in this world is permanent: We are always on the move to our true home in heaven.”