Flooding on Tuesday, March 26, put in jeopardy Holy Week services at St. Alphonsus, Greendale. However, the parish community responded quickly and the Paschal Triduum went on without a hitch. (Submitted photo)

Holy Week is a hectic time for any parish as preparations get underway for the liturgies that mark the most sacred few days of the Catholic year.

But the community at St. Alphonsus in Greendale had a surprise element of chaos thrown into the mix this year — a flooded church just days before the Paschal Triduum.

“I just kind of stood there and took it all in, and tried not to panic,” admitted Fr. Kevin McManaman, who was made aware of the situation by maintenance staff on the morning of Tuesday, March 26. “It was just that feeling of — what, what are we going to do? It’s Holy Week. This week, of all weeks.”

The church’s sump pump had failed at some point the previous day, it was discovered, which led to the flooding of several areas of the church building. Around a quarter of an inch of water had pooled in the area that surrounds the sanctuary and the choir rooms, which are located below ground level.

“The circuit boards faulted and sent a bunch of weird signals to the pumps — basically constantly telling the pumps to turn on and off. It just faulted the whole system and the pumps never turned on,” said Fr. McManaman.

The community immediately mobilized to restore the church to proper conditions for worship. The school Mass scheduled for Wednesday had to be canceled, and Tuesday evening’s Living Stations of the Cross was relocated as a team from Adelman Carpet began the process of water extraction.

“At first it was one guy and then it was like, three guys,” said Fr. McManaman. “I mean, the space is really large. Had it frozen, you could have ice skated laps around our sanctuary.”

Holes had to be drilled in the sanctuary steps and choir risers to help drain the water, and Belfor Property Restoration was brought in to repair hard surfaces affected by water damage, setting up enormous dehumidifiers and fans to dry the space. An electrician replaced the socket wells in the floor and ran tests to ensure that the church’s electrical system (including the sound system) was not affected.

“They really did a great job of getting everything ready,” said Fr. McManaman. “The church itself looked as if nothing had happened. Especially if you didn’t look close and see there were holes drilled in the bottom of the sanctuary.”

There were several pieces of decor in the church that couldn’t be saved, so on Wednesday evening, volunteers from the environment team assembled to make the space ready for Holy Thursday Mass.

When the time finally came for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening, Fr. McManaman said he felt emotional to see the church full — and dry.

“I told them, ‘The fact that we’re in here, the fact that this is actually happening, is really good,’” he said.

Fr. McManaman said he expects there will need to be some further restoration work done in the choir practice room where the sump pumps are located, including drywall replacement. But all things considered, the situation was far less disastrous than it could have been.

“It is a blessing that it happened early in the week and it didn’t happen on Wednesday or Thursday,” he said. “That would’ve just stopped us.”