Record rainfall leaves several churches with damage

BOSTON — Five days of record rainfall that pelted the region from May 12-16 and caused major flooding in area homes and businesses has left several Catholic churches in the area with damage and basement flooding.

The rainfall, as much as 17 inches in some places, led to swollen rivers that invaded city streets and resulted in the worst flooding in some areas since 1936, according to the National Weather Service.

In Peabody, one of the most hard hit towns, Father John E. MacInnis, pastor of St. John the Baptist, said his parish is forming a program to provide needed items to those who lost their belongings. They plan to collect items from individuals who wish to donate and distribute them through the thrift store in their former convent.

“It’s at least some way we can help people out,” he said.

Other parishes in Peabody were still pumping out water on May 17.

Marie Cappilo, the parish secretary at St. Adelaide Parish in Peabody, said the basement of the parish center was flooded.

“The water is still pumping out. We had 20 inches down there,” she said. “We had our furnace break down, so we have to get a whole new furnace.”

Father Charles R. Stanley, pastor at St. Ann Parish in Peabody said that seven inches of water accumulated in the basement of the parish hall.

“We got someone to do some pumping yesterday,” he said. “We still have to do all the clean up work, which is vacuuming up the puddles that we’ve got now and then drying the place out. There are professionals that the chancery has sent over here.”

Father Henry M. Cunney, vicar at St. Richard Chichester Parish in Danvers, said that the parish’s basement and rectory were both flooded.

“We have water in the basement of the church and in the basement of the rectory, and we lost electricity,” he said. “It was about a foot of water.”

“The pastor got down there with the janitor and a pump,” he added. “It’s dry now, but we’re going to have to pull up the rugs and throw those out.”

Father Cunney added that the flooding has affected many of the parishioners as well as the parish.

“A lot of the people around here, their homes and so forth, especially if they have rooms in their cellar, were really hard hit,” he said. “A few people didn’t get confirmed last night because they had traumatic situations at their homes with the flooding.”

Several other pastors contacted by The Pilot said they are trying to get the basements dried out as soon as possible to prevent damage and have lower churches and chapels ready for next Sunday’s Masses.

Father James E. Taggart, OMI, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Lowell, said he hopes his chapel will be available for this weekend.

“We have Masses upstairs and downstairs at the same time,” he said. “Normally the sump pump does a pretty good job of keeping the water out, but I guess it was too much for it to handle.”

“We put another sump pump in to get rid of the water there. We moved everything out of the chapel so that benches and chairs can dry,” he added. “We hired a company to come in and do the rug cleaning and dehumidification. That’s still underway.”

Kent Wilkins, the claims manager for the archdiocese, said he has assisted many pastors by sending crews to pump out water.

“What I am doing is, I am paying for companies to come in, pump them out and dry them out and disinfect it,” he said.

This effort will hopefully prevent further damage and mold, which would not be covered by insurance, he added.

“The bulk of the problems with the basements has come from the heavy rain and the ground water and the ground becoming so saturated that its seeping through the foundation,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s not covered by insurance.”

Wilkins said the work is far from done.

“With some of the harder hit areas on the north shore these companies can’t get out there until today because water was still coming in, the ground was so saturated,” he said. “That’s my main concern, to make sure they’re high and dry again.”