Flooding reaches diocese

Photo Caption: Father John Thieryoung, pastor of St. Mary’s Mission in Keithsburg, and parishioner Gary Shaw survey rising floodwaters in the Mercer County village on Monday.

By: Tom Dermody and Jared Olar

KEITHSBURG — Father John Thieryoung looked at the houses and businesses inundated by water in this Mississippi River village in Mercer County and described the scene in three words.

“What a mess.”

The record flooding that made a colossal mess of much of Iowa last week arrived in force on the western border of the Diocese of Peoria over the weekend. Residents of rural communities and larger cities on both sides of the Mississippi River acted to save their property and farmland, sometimes with success, sometimes not.

It marked the second substantial flood in the Diocese of Peoria in 2008. Large sections of Pontiac were flooded by a swollen Vermilion River in January.

When a levee was breached flooding Keithsburg last Saturday, Father Thieryoung got a call from the village’s sheriff’s office asking him to cancel Mass at St. Mary’s Church, which is safe and dry on a hillside. Roads leading into the community were closed.

Father Thieryoung, who resides at St. Catherine’s, Aledo, toured the town Monday with parishioner Gary Shaw. At a relief center established at the fire station they found parishioner Joyce Buckham making sandwiches for affected families.

“Once it broke,” she said of the levee, “we are just maintaining families.” The center was providing three meals a day to 50 individuals.

Father Michael Menner, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Warsaw, is requesting prayers for his parishioners affected by the early Wednesday morning levee breaks in the Warsaw area, south of Nauvoo.

“We have to see what the effect is, but I think it’s mainly farmland and farmers’ houses that are affected in our area,” said Father Menner. “Some of our parishioners have land out near the Mississippi, in what is called the Warsaw Bottoms.”

Warsaw is situated atop a bluff above the Mississippi, so Warsaw’s residents and Sacred Heart Church are not in danger, said Father Menner. However, at least three grain bins at the bottom of Warsaw hill have buckled and fallen into the river, causing the loss of a few hundred thousand dollars worth of grain, he said.

“Quite a few of our parishioners have been out helping with the sandbagging of the levee,” added Father Menner, who said he was impressed the way all ages in the community came together to protect the levee.

“I even saw some little kids that all they could do was hold the bags open. Once they were filled they couldn’t lift them, but that was fine because there were others who could do that. It made it more efficient,” he said.

Father Anthony Trosley, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Nauvoo and Sacred Heart Mission in Dallas City said the water was continuing to rise. On Wednesday, he visited a parish family in Dallas City who had to evacuate when the sandbags around their house gave way.

“It’s an unbelievable sight to see a spot that you usually drive by completely covered with water,” he said. “I really get a sense of how powerful the river is, seeing it burst its banks. If you haven’t seen it, or if you’ve only seen it on TV, you really can’t understand it.”

Residents of Dallas City also must cope with a truck accident that spilled a large amount of black, sooty graphite all over town. The substance is not toxic, but can affect people with asthma or allergies, he said.

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