By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
On the morning of March 10, a large portion of the roof over the Father Ketter Parish Center at St. Francis de Sales, Moorhead, collapsed.
Father Raul Perez-Cobo is Pastor of St. Francis de Sales and St. John in Georgetown. He received a text from a friend around 11:15 a.m. saying part of the church roof was down. Contrary to initial reports, no one was in the building; Father Perez-Cobo was the first on the scene.
“Nobody was there and there were no tracks in the parking lot,” he said. “There was a gas smell and so I got the Blessed Sacrament out,” he said.
The collapsed roof was reported to the Moorhead Fire Department around 12 p.m.
Mass and activities, including a Boy Scout breakfast, had been canceled due to a weekend storm which brought nearly 10 inches of snow, making Moorhead’s seasonal snow totals 24 inches higher than the same time last year.
A communication problem led to the decision to cancel the March 10 Mass at the parish.
Father Perez-Cobo said on Saturday he intended to cancel Mass only at St. John’s because it seemed unlikely he would be able to get to Georgetown for 8 a.m. Sunday Mass. The notification resulted in confusion about whether St. Francis de Sales was also canceled. After fielding a few phone calls from parishioners, Father Perez-Cobo conferred with members of the parish staff and they decided to cancel Mass after factoring in the confusion, continued snowy weather and stress on snow removal volunteers.
Father Perez-Cobo described that decision as a blessing.
He is grateful for the people who have come to St. Francis de Sales to pitch in during the aftermath.
According to parish communications on March 23, debris has been cleaned out of the parish hall and all openings have been covered with vinyl. Plans for structural repairs to the remaining portions of the building are underway. The repairs must be made before the building can be occupied.
In the meantime, Masses are being held at St. Elizabeth in Dilworth and religious education classes are taking place at St. Joseph’s School, Moorhead.
“We are sad to hear that the roof of St. Francis de Sales beautiful hall succumbed to the snow, but we are grateful to God that no one was hurt,” Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner said. “The faithful of St. Francis form a wonderful parish community and I know they are eager already to rebuild what was lost.”
The office and church portions of the building, which was finished in 1996, appear to be undamaged but need to be evaluated for safety.
At this time, Father Perez-Cobo said the main thing they need is prayer.
“This is difficult because we have to move ourselves to another parish and it will be inconvenient for the people, but hopefully people understand that it is an option we need to take.”
This article was first published March 11, 2019. It was updated March 13 with statements from Father Perez-Cobo. Further progress updates were made March 26.