After the tornado: “We were spared with a purpose by God…”

A great story of charity and hope, from storm-ravaged Indiana:

From the moment a tornado tore through its community, the damaged but still-standing St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church became a crisis hub where emergency workers could dispense food, water and information.

But for a brief hour Sunday morning, the church resumed its mission as a spiritual sanctuary, as about 150 worshipers and visitors gathered for Mass, many embracing tearfully as they arrived.

With no electricity for lights or musical instruments, the congregation sang without accompaniment such standard hymns as “Amazing Grace” and “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.”

As reports fluctuated throughout the day on the exact number of dead from Friday’s tornadoes — now 34 in Kentucky and Indiana — churchgoers throughout both states gathered to remember those killed and injured and thanked God for those spared.

The Rev. Steve Schaftlein said the parish of St. Francis Church, which sits in the center of Henryville, was “blessed” to have its building survive and now has a duty to the community.

“We were spared with a purpose by God … to be a symbol of hope and also to walk the talk,” he said. “We’re praying here, that’s our first work, but underneath is the food, the clothing that will help sustain the community in the months ahead.”

Even as he spoke, donors from the surrounding region and other states were carting in supplies to the church basement, which by late morning had become a virtual general store of food and supplies. Boxes and bags of donated clothing covered several rear pews in the sanctuary and were stacked nearly to the ceiling of the children’scry room” in back.

More rescue workers outside the church scrambled eggs and served coffee for those who needed food.

Read the rest.

There’s a terrific photo gallery and video at the site, as well.

Photo by: David Lee Hartlage/Special to the Courier-Journal

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