News and Tribune

March 2012 tornado coverage

March 3, 2013

A place of hope: Despite damage, St. Francis provided hope, services to those in need



“I was busy getting the bulletin ready ... I never pay too much attention to those types of things. I know that is wrong, but when you grow up here you hear hundreds of those,” he said. “When we heard a tornado had went through Henryville and hit the high school, the secretary and I drove there.”

When they arrived, words could not describe what they saw.

“We didn’t say too much,” he said. “We saw the cross on the steeple so we knew the church was still standing but we didn’t know at the time how badly it was damaged.”

The house next door was leveled, and the nearby school was in disrepair. There was destruction everywhere. 

But the damage and chaos brought out human character and perseverance. Despite having emergency workers and others staged in his church lot, Schaftlein conducted Mass two days after the storm. Even with large braces anchored on the floor and rising to the church’s ceiling while the trusses were being replaced, and despite having donations of food and clothing cluttered throughout the church, St. Francis never canceled a Mass.

“I think from the very beginning the residents of the town decided they were not going to be victims of this storm,” Schaftlein said. “The whole community responded that day. Everyone pitched in.”

He said within hours, the Clark County Sheriff’s Department was grilling hot dogs in the church lot to feed the hundreds of volunteers and those displaced by the storm.

But the tornado left so many more challenges.

“Some of the veterans said it was worse than anything they had seen in Iraq,” Nolot said. 

In the weeks following the storm, emergency crews and the many volunteers used the St. Francis parking lot as a gathering place. Nolot and others helped cook thousands of meals every day to help those who were helping get the town back on its feet.

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