WASHINGTON, Illinois: Fr Stephen Willard told parishioners who packed St Patrick Church a week after a powerful tornado devastated the community that “we’ll triumph through our sorrows” and “prove to the world that we are strong in Christ Jesus”.
“The Lord will always raise us up,” he said.
Prior to beginning the 11am Mass on November 24, Fr Willard exposed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and knelt with the assembly to prayerfully mark the moment the tornado struck the previous Sunday, destroying 1000 homes –including those of at least 130 parish families. One person was killed and more than 100 were injured.
“Tears can flow. It’s okay,” Fr Willard, who asked God for the gifts of peace, healing and consolation, said. “The Lord is here with us.”
For Mary Stickelmaier, whose family of seven was displaced by the storm, the tears were her first in a week of shock and recovery.
“When he exposed Jesus, it was the first time I was able to mourn the things I’d lost,” she said.
She also used the time to again express gratitude to God for saving her family. They now live in a rented home in nearby Peoria.
“We’re so blessed to be here,” Mrs Stickelmaier, recalling how the fast-moving storm hit just seconds after the family had found safety in their basement, said.