Irene, every wordsmith knows, means “peaceful.” Hurricane Irene wasn’t exactly peaceful, although the strongest wind was the media hype rained upon us ad nauseam this past weekend.
But if you were affected by power outages, basement or ground floor flooding, fallen trees, flooded roads, or just living in a riverfront community, it was definitely no fun.
Bristol happens to be a Delaware River community, and at St. Mark’s, while there was no church flooding, they were without power, and only those who actually live in Bristol Borough could make it to church because most roads were closed.
“We had all our Masses by candlelight; it was very pretty,” said parish secretary Mary Walker.
The 5 p.m. Vigil Mass was the best attended, but people did come to the three Sunday Masses too; as a matter of fact, Father Dennis Mooney held the noon baptisms as scheduled — by candlelight.
“We didn’t think there would be a baptism, and I really thought it would be cancelled,” said James Esposito, the grandfather of Carter Joseph Esposito, one of the babies baptized. “My son, Dennis, called Father Mooney and he said he would be happy to do it.
“We had to go a roundabout way to get to the church, but we got there. Father Mooney is a great guy.”
At Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Parkesburg, the power was out in the entire area, and it would have been understandable if no one showed up for Mass, but come they did.
Lucky thing, Catholic churches usually have a generous supply of candles on hand, because they were all celebrated by candlelight, thanks to weekend ministry by Norbertine Father Tom Rossi, according to parish secretary Joan Halter.
Not only that, despite a circuitous route due to road closings, Father Victor Eschbach drove to St. Malachy in Cochranville, a worship site of Our Lady of Consolation, where he celebrated another candlelight Mass for that community.
St. Peter Parish in rural West Brandywine, Chester County, was a sure bet to have problems because of the sheer size of the parish (70 square miles). People were almost bound to encounter road difficulties from flooding and downed trees.
“It was really dangerous for people to come out,” said Father Michael Fitzpatrick, pastor of St. Peter’s.
Almost everyone in the parish was without electricity and that also meant no water, because they use electric pumps for the wells, Father Fitzpatrick explained.
Only about 10 percent of the normal congregation could make it, and without air conditioning in a church with sealed windows, it was a bit primitive.
The lack of amplification wasn’t a problem for the pastor. “Fortunately I was a high school moderator so I know how to shout,” Father Fitzpatrick said. “We had no music because the music ministers couldn’t make it.
“The only apparent building damage was the loss of some downspouting on the adjacent regional school.”
At Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Limerick, there was no storm damage, but Irene threatened to crash the outdoor parish festival which ran Thursday through Saturday.
The first two evenings went off without a hitch, and then the provider packed up the amusement rides and took them away. Parishioners showed up Saturday morning and moved everything else inside.
After the 4 and 5 p.m. Masses were celebrated in the parish hall, it was quickly converted into a new festival site.
“There was a live band, ethnic foods, (gaming) wheels, a bar, bingo and children’s games,” said Father Paul Brandt, Blessed Teresa’s pastor. “Many parishioners and community members attended the evening for a great time to celebrate when so many things were closed.
“The entertainment and excitement went on until 10 p.m. then everyone went home safely. It was a wonderful way for our parish to survive Hurricane Irene.”