Memories of Flood of ’93
Following the path of the record flood waters this week from devastated central Iowa to the Mississippi River along the Diocese of Peoria’s western border — and now points south — has been like watching a disaster unfold in slow motion. And for those of us who saw or lived through the Flood of 1993 — and for residents of Pontiac still recovering from a late-winter flood this year — it’s like watching a rerun of a very sad movie.
The Flood of ’93 was front page news in The Catholic Post for four consecutive weeks in that summer as the rising Mississippi overflowed levees in small towns whose names are once again in the national news: Keithsburg, Niota, Oquawka, New Boston.
But our stories that year told of faith-inspired good works in response to tragedy.
“River towns get prayers, aid” was our first headline on July 11, 1993. Among the charitable acts we recorded was of Father John Gaughran lending his fishing boat to a flooded-out member of St. Mary’s Mission in Hampton and Father James DeBisschop assisting sandbagging efforts in Keithsburg.
“Mississippi mess not without bless” read the July 18 banner headline. That story noted how Catholic churches in Mercer County took up flood relief collections at weekend Masses; how the Benedictine Sisters (then based in Nauvoo) opened the dorm at St. Mary’s Academy to two displaced families, and how Father James McAteer and 17 members of Corpus Christi Parish, Galesburg, responded to a call for sandbagging help in Niota, 50 miles away.
The Aug. 1 issue contained not only a front page story detailing a diocese-wide collection for flood victims but also a special section chronicling stories of faith through the days of disaster. Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Nauvoo, for example, hosted a meeting to respond to victims’ needs. “We will be a much deeper faith community if we respond to this,” said Sister Sandra Brunenn, OSB.
It is time once again to show that the depth of our faith is far deeper than any flood waters. Watch for ways to assist flood victims in the coming days and weeks. Pray for them daily and especially at this weekend’s Masses. Take lessons from the sandbagging crews we see on the news every night, who are a metaphor for so many aspects of our faith as they work side by side for the benefit of strangers, perhaps even enemies.
Sister Sandra said it best 15 years ago when she described sandbagging volunteers as helping us better understand “what the Gospel is really all about, giving and receiving.” — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief