SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS, USA – A US bishop has asked for humanitarian aid in the wake of a powerful tornado that ripped through cities and towns in western Massachusetts.

Church agency Catholic Charities is in “immediate and ongoing need of household items, toiletries, clothing, baby needs, and non-perishable food supplies for the tornado’s victims”, said Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell in a letter to all in the diocese.

He asked parishes to publicise the needs and to accept monetary donations to help alleviate the effects of the tornadoes. He said the funds collected would be used to meet the needs of the 19 communities in the diocese who were hit by the June 1 tornado.

The bishop said the devastation to the diocesan buildings was “especially heartbreaking to the diocese”.

Diocesan ministries were especially hard-hit in one section of Springfield. Cathedral High School, St Michael’s Academy pre-school and middle school campuses and St Michael’s Residence for retired priests suffered significant damage.

The tornado ripped apart homes, businesses, wooded areas and many lives. The chapel at St Michael’s Residence is now a pile of rubble. Windows were blown out of the residence and Cathedral High School’s science wing. A large portion of the back wall of Cathedral’s gymnasium collapsed and a portion of the roof of the school was torn off. A wall also was blown away at the rear of the pre-school.

Diocesan spokesperson Mark Dupont said, “These facilities were hit very hard, nonetheless we are grateful that the injuries were minimal.”

On the day of the violent storm, some students and personnel of Catholic schools were still in the buildings as the twister touched down, but none were hurt.

One priest from St Michael’s Residence suffered a dislocated shoulder and broken leg and had surgery. He will be spending time in a rehabilitation facility. The other seven retired diocesan priests at the residence have been moved to other locations. - CNS

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