Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pray for Joplin

In the wake of the worst tornado to hit these shores in nearly six decades, the shot above shows what's left of St Mary's church in Joplin, Missouri, where an F4 funnel -- three-quarters of a mile wide at its peak, with top speeds just shy of 200mph (300kph) -- killed at least 116 late Sunday, leveling some 2,000 buildings in its wake.

The parish school was similarly gutted, and the city's St John's Hospital was said to have taken major damage.

Home to a resident population of 49,000 in predominantly Evangelical country, the town has a notable link to current-day American Catholicism -- seven miles up the road in Carthage is home to August's traditional Marian Days, the five-day festival of faith, food and piety that sees upwards of 70,000 Vietnamese-American Catholics converge for a camp-out on the grounds of a former seminary given to a religious community that settled in the area after its postwar exile. While Carthage is said to have been spared the twister's wrath, thousands of Days attendees traditionally stay in Joplin hotels, many of which are now wiped out.

As rain and hailstorms continue to pummel the area, hampering the timeframe of recovery efforts, the local diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has posted information on supporting its relief efforts.

Bishop Vann Johnston is slated to get his first look at the devastation later today... and for the rest of us, whether we're near or far from the scene, just another chance to do what our kind do best.