St. Mary's Elementary after the tornado May 22, 2011
As Joplin, MO, gathers to remember the tornado of May 22, 2011, the Sisters of Mercy of the West Midwest continue to give support. The sisters have been part of the recovery of the community of Joplin since the tornado’s destruction a year ago. Recently, grief counselor Sister Toni Lynn Gallagher of San Francisco was a guest of the Sisters of Mercy of Joplin to help students deal with their emotions around the anniversary. St. Mary’s Elementary School, totally destroyed, is now housed in a 100-year-old warehouse, near McAuley High School and St. Peter’s Middle School.
“We are very fortunate to have our faith community to be here for us to lend a hand and help us when things get tough.” said St. Mary’s teacher Sister Joan Margaret Schwager, one of the four Sisters of Mercy now in Joplin. Sister Julie Brown is in clinical pastoral work at Mercy Hospital Springfield, and Angelene Schram is a hospital volunteer at Mercy Joplin. Sister Cabrini Kolesch is in mission advancement at Mercy Joplin. Mercy Associates in Joplin are Carleen Herbert, McAuley High principal Gene Koester and his wife Nancy, Bonnie and Michael Schaeffer, and Ann Smith whose home was damaged.
The leadership of the West Midwest Mercy Community also has generously provided help by counselors Sisters Sally Smollen and Margretta Dwyer, and former member Teresa Kasel in the past year.
“The Sisters of Mercy have been so generous in time, talent and resources,” said Joan Margaret, “and the St. Louis Mercy Health System has been generous to provide jobs for all those who lost them when the hospital was destroyed. It has also helped our parish to buy land where the new parish church will be built. The school will come later, so we will be in a warehouse for a few more years.”
Sister Toni Lynn wrote to the students after she returned home: “As you walk into the wind together on May 22 I also want to encourage you to find the symbol you chose to mark the event of 2011 and bring your families together for a prayer. Hold that symbol as a sacred reminder that God is always with you.
One of you said: ‘I have the strongest bond with God I have ever had…(so in some ways) I thank God for the Tornado.’ It has changed you and your stories forever. So go on loving God and your families, and I will continue to pray for you and with your stories that all will be well for each of you.”