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An historic day for Greensburg Catholics

Bishop Gilmore dedicates new church nearly

two years to the day of 2007 tornado

 Click on the photo at right for more pictures by Luetta Haynes and Arlene Oberle. The SKR is working to remove the black and white specks that appear on the photos in the upload process. They are not on the original photos.

By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register

As if in recognition of Greensburg’s steady rebirth after the devastating tornado of 2007, the completed St. Joseph Church was dedicated May 3 – one day short of the two-year anniversary of the deadly storm -- by Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore.
Concelebrating the dedication Mass were Father Robert Schremmer, parish sacramental minister, Fathers Tony Suellentrop, John Strasser, Gregory LaBlanc, and Ted Stoecklein.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way that the celebration happened,” said Ellen Peters, Parish Life Coordinator. “You would think we do it very week!”

Peters admitted that presenting this very special Mass was a challenging undertaking.
“Father Bob [Schremmer], who always does everything with aplomb, asked me to request the parishioners participate by doing certain ministries during the ritual. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the response: ‘I would be glad to do that.’ ‘Thank you for calling me.’ On top of that, Father Bob wanted people to come in on Saturday night for a rehearsal. They were all there. We all had the chance to walk through the whole process.
“On Sunday, it was a beautiful ceremony. There was a tangible sense of joy and gratitude at that service for our building and for that whole ritual of consecrating that altar. It was just wonderful. It was a meaningful, significant service. People just really got into it and really appreciated everything the bishop did.
“And then the meal after went really well -- lots of laughter and joy.”
In the congregation was Arlene Oberle, her husband and three daughters, one of dozens of families in attendance who survived the horrible tornado.
Theirs is a story oft-repeated by the people of St. Joseph -- survivors of one of the worst tornadoes the region has ever experienced.
Two years ago, Arlene, her husband Scott, their three young girls and pet dog huddled together under the stairs in a basement closet when the F-5 tornado ripped the roof off their home.
“When we got out of the closet my oldest daughter looked up and said the roof’s gone,” explained Arlene, who lived a block west of St. Joseph’s. “We stayed downstairs because it was still raining. My husband went up because people were yelling for help.”
After living with Arlene’s parents on their farm for a time, the family -- like so many others -- eventually made it to “FEMAville,” where she said their home “swayed with the wind.”
 “We stayed from July until we got to our home in March,” said Arlene, a second grade teacher. “It felt really good to be in a home and being able to put a fence up for the dog. You really miss having your back yard....”
The couple rebuilt in the same spot where their former home stood, nearly in the shadow of St. Joseph Church. Arlene said the family can clearly see the church from their front porch.
It was unimaginable back then, in the midst of mind-numbing destruction, that within two years the community would gather for the dedication of their new Catholic church.
But here they were, celebrating a rebirth in a town of rebirths.

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