Flooding in the St. Louis region has led to a suspension of Masses at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Portage Des Sioux, while the recently-closed Immaculate Conception Church in West Alton has taken on flood water as the Mississippi River continues to rise.
While flood waters last week had not yet entered the main level of St. Francis of Assisi, there is water in the church basement, parish life coordinator Deacon Bill Twellman said of an initial assessment of the property. The flooding has closed many streets in the town, and the regular 8 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Francis of Assisi has been suspended until further notice. Priests from the St. Charles Deanery have been providing for the sacramental needs of the parish, which has nearly 80 registered households.
“St. Francis is an island now,” Deacon Twellman said. “I’m letting priests (who help with the sacraments) know on a weekly basis what’s going on.”
The Mississippi River has risen to 34.73 feet at Grafton, Ill., the closest gauge to Portage Des Sioux. The river was expected to crest at 35.5 feet by June 6, although more rain was in the forecast for the past week. The record crest at Grafton was 38.17 feet on Aug. 1, 1993.
Flood waters have entered Immaculate Conception Church in West Alton, Deacon Twellman said. The church, located about 10 miles down the river from St. Francis of Assisi, already had been closed for financial reasons
, as reported in the June 3-9 edition of the Review. The flooding has delayed the removal of sacred items inside the church, including the altar.
“We’re not able to get in there,” Deacon Twellman noted. “It’s a brick building in the middle of a lake.”
Portage Des Sioux is located about a half a mile from the Mississippi River. Mayor Mark Warner, who is a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi, said major flooding is not a regular occurrence, as the town of about 330 people sits on high ground. Warner said the current flooding will leave the majority of residents with water in their basements, with some experiencing flooding on the main level of their homes. He expected St. Francis of Assisi will have some water in the main level of the church by the time the river crests.
“We’re just hoping and praying it’s not much,” he said.
After the Great Flood of 1993, the church underwent a major interior renovation, including new flooring, refinishing pews and the main, back and side altars. The original German Stations of the Cross also were refinished.
Warner also noted that back in 1993, the parish had to cancel its annual summer picnic, which typically is held on the first Sunday of August. That year, the picnic was organized at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in St. Charles. St. Elizabeth parishioners took care of everything and gave the proceeds to St. Francis of Assisi, he noted.
It’s likely that this year’s picnic will be delayed, as parishioners will be spending the coming months cleaning up their homes, Warner said. “It will take weeks to let everything dry out,” he said. “Then you can start rebuilding.”