For the second time in three years, Archbishop William E. Lori will celebrate a Mass at St. Paul in Ellicott City in support of the historic Howard County town, where residents are again taking stock after another devastating flash flood.
Weekend worship for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity had concluded by the afternoon of May 27, when sustained, torrential rains turned Main Street below the parish into a raging river that washed away automobiles, buildings and human life – just as it had July 31, 2016.
Archbishop Lori will celebrate 5 p.m. Mass June 2 at St. Paul.
The church was established in 1838, 66 years after the mill and railroad town was founded at was then a strategic location along the Patapsco River. St. Paul is situated relatively safely above the Main Street thoroughfare, which once again produced reminders of the destructive power of nature, documented on social media as many prepared to observe Memorial Day.
Among the structures destroyed was a courthouse that dated to 1840.
Eddison Hermond, a National Guardsman from Severn, was enjoying lunch with friends when he went to the aid of a woman and was washed away, toward the Patapsco. Two days later, search and rescue teams located his body on the Baltimore County side of the river.
After the flash flood of 2016, St. Paul served as an emergency shelter. According to Father Warren Tanghe, pastor, the loss of water to all of its buildings and power in some of them precluded it from serving that function this time.
“Our facilities are not suitable for community service,” Father Tanghe told the Review May 28.
A day later, he reported that “all our buildings now have power and water, and our electronics are up.”
St. Paul Parish is serving as a staging area for BGE crews that are restoring utilities.
The flood was felt at Resurrection-St. Paul School, north of old Ellicott City. According to Karen Murphy, principal, one of her teachers “lost” his residence on Main Street.
“I have eight other staff members and dozens of families who bailed out basements this weekend, but are grateful that’s all they had to do,” Murphy said. “Our theme this year has been ‘Be Strong, Be Courageous’ from Joshua. That’s appropriate for right now.”
To the north of downtown Ellicott City on Rogers Avenue, the Our Lady’s Center Marian Shrine was closed Memorial Day for what a message on its website described as “some cleaning of debris,” but noted that it “escaped damage” thanks to improvements made to its grounds after the 2016 flood.
At St. Augustine in Elkridge, a sump pump failed in the rectory which serves as the residence for Father John A. Williamson, pastor of the Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine.
“The floors have all had to be torn up,” Father Williamson said. “We’re trying to dry out everything so we can start repair work. Thankfully, it’s all very minor compared to Ellicott City.”
St. Agnes School in Catonsville experienced “some minor water intrusion,” according to Father Michael Foppiano, pastor of St. Agnes and St. William of York in Ten Hills.
Some residents of the latter’s neighborhood had to be rescued, as flooding closed Frederick Avenue, to the west of Mount St. Joseph High School.
On the east side of Baltimore County, a residential street near Our Lady of Hope in Dundalk felt the effect of the flash flooding that had some residential streets in the area under standing water for several hours.
“We had some water in the rectory basement, and some leaking in the church, but nothing as major as I feared,” said Father T. Austin Murphy, pastor.
Father William Au, pastor of Shrine of Sacred Heart in Mount Washington, said that the parish avoided the damage that typically hits lower stretches of the Jones Falls Valley.
Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org