After the city of Burlington received constant rain that resulted in two days without power and damage to homes, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee decided to step in.
The archdiocese is joining the cleanup efforts in Kenosha and Racine counties, where many were victims of the flooding in the middle of July. Bishops Jeffrey Haines and James Schuerman sent out a plea asking all parishes to take up a second collection on the weekend of July 22-23 to assist these residents.
“When we heard about the scope of the flooding in particular parishes, we felt it was important for the whole diocese to get involved,” said Bishop Schuerman.
The communities hardest hit were those surrounding the Burlington tri-parishes: St. Charles Borromeo Parish, St. Mary Immaculate Conception Parish and St. Joseph Parish in Lyons.
In addition to residents who were affected, the buildings of the Burlington parishes felt the effect of the rain, too, according to Fr. Jim Volkert, the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, St. Mary Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parishes.
While St. Charles Borromeo sustained only a little water damage, part of St. Mary Immaculate Conception’s ceiling fell because of the amount of water on the roof. In addition, the nearby football field was damaged, as well as its retaining wall. The basements and storage areas also had standing water.
St. Joseph Parish in Lyons was hit the hardest, according to Fr. Jim. The church and rectory basements had a good amount of standing water, as did storage areas. Crews were brought in to pump water out of the parish center, and worked for about a week doing so.
Fr. Jim said the Catholic Mutual Group will cover almost everything that was damaged, and he is waiting on bids for a few of the bigger items, such as the football field retaining wall. He said he is grateful for the bishops’ efforts in taking up the collection.
Flooding around the Fox River began early in the morning of Wednesday, July 12. By the next day, the Fox River was 16.5 feet deep, 3 feet higher than the record set a decade ago. That day, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency and sent 100 Wisconsin Natural Guard soldiers to the affected areas. Power outages affected 25,000 homes and establishments as a We Energies substation was submerged.
The city of Burlington did what it could to help its residents, and the Burlington tri-parishes did their part, as well. When Fr. Jim contacted the disaster relief coordinator for the city, the coordinator wanted to pool their resources together. The tri-parishes hosted a hot meal site, advertised on Facebook, in the city from Friday, July 14, to Monday, July 17. People were provided a warm meal and a place to charge their electronic devices. On Sunday night, around 200 people came for the meal, according to Fr. Jim.
Despite the damage to the parish buildings, Fr. Jim feels fortunate.
“When you consider the whole city, there were parts of the city that were just devastated,” he said. “The devastation in the downtown area, down by the Fox River that the National Guard closed off for two days, now being able to go down there and look at some of the extensive damage that the homes suffered is incredible.”