CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic church in the Diocese of Greensburg was among the buildings heavily damaged by a tornado in western Pennsylvania early Wednesday morning.
Much of the roof of St. Mary of Czestochowa church was blown off during strong winds and heavy rains as a tornado touched down in New Kensington at 1:19 in the morning, according to the National Weather Service. About 15 minutes before the tornado, at 1:06 a.m., the Pittsburgh International Airport recorded winds at 75mph, which is the highest-ever recorded thunderstorm wind gust at that location.
Fr. Michael Begolly, the pastor of St. Mary’s and its partner parish St. Joseph, said he was “devastated” upon seeing the damaged roof on Wednesday morning.
Begolly told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he thought the winds “really sounded like a train” and that he was praying for the safety of everyone in New Kensington.
“And then when I came down here seeing the devastation, it’s just heart-breaking,” he said.
New Kensington is located about 18 miles northeast of the city of Pittsburgh, in the Diocese of Greensburg.
An aerial photographs show that nearly half of the church’s roof had been destroyed by the winds. Only the framework of the roof survived.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BREAKING?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BREAKING</a>: St Mary of Częstochowa Catholic Church in New Kensington heavily damaged by storms overnight. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NewsChopper2?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NewsChopper2</a> over the scene showing major roof and steeple damage. Other nearby buildings also damaged from storm. <a href="https://twitter.com/KDKA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KDKA</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZUn6UWnuoC">pic.twitter.com/ZUn6UWnuoC</a></p>— Ian Smith (@ismithKDKA) <a href="https://twitter.com/ismithKDKA/status/1247861380537110528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 8, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
“Please pray for parishioners of this New Kensington parish, who suffered devastating news during Holy Week,” tweeted Catholic Accent, a publication of the Diocese of Greensburg, on Wednesday afternoon. “A severe storm early Wednesday morning caused major damage to the roof at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in New Kensington.”
The full extent of the damage is currently unclear.
St. Mary of Czestochowa was founded in 1892 by a group of Polish immigrants who sought to attend Mass in Polish. With the assistance of a Polish priest in Pittsburgh, who advocated for them to the bishop of Pittsburgh, they founded the Society of Our Lady of Czestochowa that same year.
Construction on the first church building began in 1893, and the parish received their first pastor in residence that year. The existing building was completed in 1912, and underwent several renovations in the 1970s and 1990s, including the expansion of the parish’s organ. St. Mary of Czestochowa was partnered with St. Joseph Parish in 2008 as part of a restructuring of the Diocese of Greensburg.
In addition to the damage at St. Mary’s, the storm also damaged an airplane hangar and uprooted numerous trees.
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