The Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant is making progress on its cleanup efforts after the July 26 flooding. Heavy rains had caused about three feet of water in the convent, shrine and rectory buildings and about two feet in the school house.
Flash flooding on Aug. 3 brought about six inches of water into the buildings but did not cause any further damage. The shrine is one of the oldest settlements in Missouri, and where St. Rose Philippine Duchesne lived from 1819-27 and again from 1834-40.
The biggest challenge right now is getting the buildings completely dried out, said shrine director Carol Campbell.
“The ground is still soaking wet, which is making the drying out of the floors and the walls very difficult,” Campbell said.
Restoration and cleanup crews have removed most of the damaged items from the church and school buildings. The shrine’s new air conditioners were ruined and will have to be replaced, as well as nearly everything stored on the first floor of the schoolhouse, which is used for event rentals. Some floorboards in the shrine church buckled, and the electrical systems will also need to be assessed, Campbell said.
The floor of the closet that served as St. Rose Philippine Duchesne’s sleeping quarters did get wet, but nothing in the closet sustained lasting damage. “I am eternally grateful for that,” Campbell said.
The Florissant community has rallied around the shrine in the weeks after the flood, Campbell said, reaching out with well-wishes, donations and support. Some children in the area even hosted a lemonade stand for the cause.
“They put up a lemonade stand one day, and the sign said ‘all proceeds go to the Shrine,’” Campbell said. “They made $500.”
Karen Goeke, a lifelong Florissant resident, owns Goeke Produce in Florissant with her sister, Lynn.
“We have a bench with our mom’s family name on it in the church,” Goeke said. “We’re pretty attached to the church…(the flood damage) just broke everybody’s hearts.”
They brought some fresh snacks down to the restoration workers and have been collecting donations for the shrine at the store’s checkout counters.
“As soon as people saw the jar go up, they started putting money in it,” Goeke said. “People in Florissant — they just tend to show up.”
At St. Francis de Sales Oratory in south St. Louis, all the stones and debris from the retaining wall that collapsed after the heavy rainfall July 26 have been cleared away. The oratory is in the process of getting bids to repair the wall, said Abbé Alex Barga.
The heavy rains of the following week did not affect the oratory, he said. “No additional damage was done and there were no leaks in the building, thanks be to God.”
St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist in north St. Louis sustained flooding and damage to the church roof over the adoration chapel July 26. Repairs are underway and no further damage was done in the following days of rain, said pastor Father Steve Giljum.
A GoFundMe has been set up to benefit repairs at the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine. Donate here: www.gofund.me/19b5e534