Long Beach Island Parish Continues to Rebuild

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

BRANT BEACH, N.J. — Last week’s nor‘easter brought bad memories of Hurricane Sandy to St. Francis of Assisi Parish. While the church and community center sustained no additional damage from the March 7 storm, the roads on the narrow barrier island were severely flooded, causing the community center to close early.

St. Francis Church in Brant Beach has been closed since the building was badly damaged when the hurricane hit on Oct. 29. Renovations are still under way. Progress is being made, according to communications coordinator Lori Dudek, but the parish has set no definite opening date. Electrical work is being completed and sheet rock is going up. Photos of the progress can be seen on the parish’s Facebook page.

Parishioners currently attend Mass at St. Thomas of Villanova Church in Surf City, on the northern half of Long Beach Island.

“On a practical level, there is frustration with insurance and red tape. On a spiritual level, God continues to bless St. Francis with a healing and hope-filled community,” said Stephen Kluge, OFM, pastor. “We are all in this together.”

St. Francis Community Center reopened Jan. 2, though operating on a somewhat reduced schedule, according to Dudek. Extended hours are expected to start in time for the summer vacation season that begins at the end of May, when thousands of visitors arrive on the island.

Area residents are experiencing a broad range of emotions, said Wendy Westberg, director of counseling. Some parishioners are dealing with major insurance issues as they rebuild their homes, while life for those less affected is getting back to normal. “I think we hear both sides of this. It seems that people who were less affected seem to experience more hope and feelings of normalcy, while those who were deeply affected are still struggling with insurance, public agencies, repairing their homes, and figuring out to what extent should they repair given elevation levels. They are still struggling.”

To help those affected by Hurricane Sandy, St. Francis Counseling Services is offering individual, family and group counseling sessions. Funding for these services was provided, in part, by Holy Name Province.

The center also provides disaster relief assistance to help with housing/rentals, utility bills, buying major appliances, household products, replacement medication, and more. Funding for this assistance is provided, in part, by the Province, in addition to other foundations and funders.

To lighten things up, the parish held its 2nd Annual March Madness Foul Shooting Contest earlier this month. The contest, held in the community center gym, was open to adults and students, starting with those in kindergarten. Winners received St. Francis basketballs.

To help community members “get away from it all” as well as to raise money for its programs, St. Francis Community Center is running a raffle through May 17. The winner will receive a $5,000 travel gift certificate. Information is available from the center at 609-494-8861 and on its website.

 Wendy Healy, a Connecticut based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.