Ministries Dig Out from Blizzards

HNP Communications In the Headlines

St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden, N.J., was right in the path of last week’s snowstorm that dumped two feet of snow in southern Jersey. 

The Feb. 10 to 11 snowstorm, deemed a blizzard in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and parts of New Jersey, tore heavily through the Mid-Atlantic before petering out and leaving 6 to 12 inches in the greater New York metropolitan area. 

It was like a one-two punch for many Province ministries, that had only just recovered from the previous weekend storm on Feb. 6 to 7, dumping another foot in some areas. 

The Camden parish’s Snow Went Away Team (SWAT) had the sidewalks, fire escape, walkways, steps, ramps, and stairwells all cleared of snow two hours after the last flake fell, according to Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor.

“We finished our part about six hours before the plows came,” he said. Jud submitted photos to the HNP Communications Office that show Gerald Hudson, OFM, and deacon Br. Fadi Azar, OFM, cleaning the snow, which can be seen in the collage with this article.

Mid Atlantic Area
In nearby Wilmington, Del., the community of St. Paul Church was affected by both the Feb. 6 and Feb. 10 storms, mainly because of road problems. Todd Carpenter, OFM, pastor of the church, said, “We were hit with two major storms in one week. Last weekend, Wilmington received about 24 inches of snow, and then on Wednesday we received another 18 inches. A Dec. 20 storm also brought about 18 inches.”

Very few people came to Mass on the weekend of Feb. 6, he said. “We had to close our school the entire week. The issue here is the city’s lack of plowing. Only major streets are plowed. The side streets are generally not plowed due to lack of equipment and money. Several days after the storm, some people have not been able to dig their cars out.

“Unfortunately, we also had to postpone our Valentine’s dinner dance, planned for Saturday Feb. 13,” Todd said. “Because of the accumulation of snow and ice, the streets were not passable and there was no parking.”

The other difficulty for St. Paul’s is a financial one, he said. “Both the Dec. 20 storm and the storm last weekend fell on a Saturday or Sunday. Because of the low Mass attendance, we estimated a loss of $2,500 each weekend due to the low Sunday collection. That’s $5,000 we’ll never see. I have had enough snow for a while.”

Todd used social media to keep parishioners, family and friends apprised of the storm, updating his Facebook page online regularly.

Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., got perhaps the brunt of the storm. Being right outside the metro-D.C. area, where businesses were shut down for four days, the area reported more than 50 inches of snow between the two storms. Friars worked to keep the snow cleared as well as enjoyed some fun in the snow. In the photo above, Mario Gomez, OFM, shovels snow. In the collage, Stephen Dewitt, OFM, jumps into a pile.

New Jersey Buried
Cassian Miles, OFM, of St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., wrote to HNP Today to share the snow perspective from the northern part of the state. 

“Imagine having to tackle shoveling snow off grounds equivalent to four football fields,” he wrote. “That was the daunting task facing Patrick Fereday, OFM, and two helpers throughout the blizzard last week.”

Patrick, director of maintenance for St. Anthony Friary for the past 15 years, had at his snow-shoveling side two friends, Ken Darby from Alabama and Joe Lyle from Tennessee. They have assisted him with painting, friary repairs and cleaning over the past few years and at many other Holy Name Province properties.

Dealing with the major snowstorm began early Feb. 9 with a notice pinned by guardian John Mahon, OFM, to the small bulletin board in the friary elevator. “Members of the community with cars were advised to move them across to the garage underneath St. Anthony’s elementary school adjoining the friary property,” said Cassian.

“My brothers gave me great cooperation,” Pat said. “Otherwise, having to dig their cars out of the deep snow in our back parking area would have been very difficult and time consuming.”

snowdayA Daunting Dig-Out
Cassian said, “About 5 o’clock on a frigid Tuesday morning, Pat, Ken and Joe trudged into the snow that had been accumulating through the night and anxiously took note of the glistening white areas lying before them: the rear of the friary, the church’s side parking space and long driveway all the way out to the front steps and parish office entrance, the sprawling front of the friary lawn, the huge church parking lot, and the entire school area — all with surrounding sidewalks, as well as the church parish house up Bartholdi Avenue and further up the cemetery grounds. Whew!”

Pat said, “It’s one thing to shovel snow, but where do you put it? Our task was made doubly difficult by having to haul all the snow from the front areas of our property and then dump it over the hillside that slopes off the rear of our grounds onto Boonton Avenue below.”

As they worked with snowplows and snow-blowers, it seemed as if their efforts against Mother Nature’s white wrath would never end. Pat estimates that St. Anthony’s grounds collected at least 17 inches of snow, but strong and constant winds keep blowing drifts across the cleared areas, almost as fast as his crew could make progress. “It often felt like a losing battle,” Pat said. “But we just kept shoveling away.”

A near tragedy happened Wednesday night as Pat was handling a snow blower near the rear hillside. The machine suddenly lurched and tossed him onto the ice-covered parking lot. He sustained a badly-bruised left hip, but feels grateful for no broken bones, Cassian said, adding that Pat, Ken and Joe were “back in action Thursday and Friday — only to face more snow shoveling challenges on Feb. 16.”

“I owe so much to my friends who helped me,” Pat acknowledged. “Fortunately, they are younger than I am.”

Friars at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Brant Beach, N.J., said the large snowfall there affected the programs and people. 

Retired parishioners, who comprise a large percentage of the parish, had a difficult time getting out after the snowfall and walking and driving on snow-covered roads, according to Thomas Conway, OFM. 

Stephen Kluge, OFM, pastor said, “This winter has been awful. We’ve had to shut down programs and cancel Masses.” 

The St. Francis Community Center was closed on both Feb. 10, the day of the storm, and Feb. 11 in addition to Feb. 6 to 7, when two feet of snow fell. The church held Sunday Mass, but attendance was low. 

— Wendy Healy, of Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.