Shelters rebuilt after the storm

Residents enjoy the foyer in front of the chapel at Dunn Memorial Senior Housing in Bolder March 29, from left: Tom Sauser and dog Sadie, Sister Josette Kelly, B.V.M., and Jim Doherty.

Residents enjoy the foyer in front of the chapel at Dunn Memorial Senior Housing in Bolder March 29, from left: Tom Sauser and dog Sadie, Sister Josette Kelly, B.V.M., and Jim Doherty.

Last September, dark skies dumped 20 inches of rain when a front stalled over northern Colorado Sept. 9 and persisted for nearly a week. The downpour resulted in catastrophic flooding that took lives, displaced tens of thousands and damaged more than 17,000 structures over 20,000 square miles.

The Denver Archdiocese sustained more than $2 million in damage to 31 structures including 26 churches, four schools and a senior housing complex. Skies seem brighter six months later as communities have come together to heal and recover. In the archdiocese, it is estimated about 95 percent of flood clean-up and repairs have been completed.

“We’ve been turning the crank on this and they’re all going to be finished soon,” according to Walt Wostenberg of the archdiocese’s Office of Construction. “(The majority) were finished mid-March.”

Senior complex hit hardest
The property with the most damage, dollar-wise, was Dunn Memorial Senior Housing at 4805 Baseline Road in Boulder, owned by the Sacred Heart of Jesus Foundation and managed by Archdiocesan Housing.

The entire one-story complex of 14 one-bedroom units was flooded with 3- to 4-feet of sewer water, according to Nancy Cuprisin, director of housing and management services for Archdiocesan Housing. Residents have been living temporarily with family, friends or in short-term rentals during the mitigation and repairs estimated at $800,000.

“We had to go in and do tremendous amounts of mitigation, then start restoration work,” explained Wostenberg, commending “the outstanding work” of contactor Palace Construction.

“Anything that could soak up water—wood, flooring, carpet, doors—had to go,” Cuprisin said. “Anything metal could be cleaned and sanitized.”

The end product has resulted in improvements for the residents, who range from mid-50s to 80s, such as updated décor, vinyl plank flooring, new carpet, brighter paint and window coverings, and an upgraded computer room in the common area.

“Three people have moved back in,” Cuprisin said, adding that all residents will be back in their homes within the week. They plan to celebrate with an open house once settled.

Rainbow over Boulder parish
Though Boulder County was the worst of the 17 counties hit, Sacred Heart of Mary Church at 6739 S. Boulder Road initially thought they had weathered the storm. After the first few days of rain, business manager Brenda Stone was contacted by the archdiocese’s Risk Management Office wondering why they hadn’t heard from her.

“I said so far not much had happened to make a claim,” Stone relayed. “That must have been bad luck because that night the irrigation ditches south of the property overflowed.”

Because the property sits lower than the ditches, water rushed in flooding the parish office, youth building, St. Bernard Hall basement, rectory garage and church basement. There was also damage to the church walls as water seeped through the brick exterior of the 1913 building.

Following a “noisy, dirty and unsightly” drying-out process, roughly 30 inches of drywall, insulation and carpet was replaced—with the guidance of architect Jim Paull and contractor Horizon West Builders—as well as new furnaces, air condensers and sump pumps installed. Work is expected to total about $600,000.

“As with most disasters, you see the best in people,” Stone said “We had several parishioners take off work to start flood mitigation the very next morning … these early efforts had a significant impact on the loss incurred.”

Despite crowding and inconvenience, they are grateful.

“God is good,” Stone said. “We are ending up with better facilities in the end and we have a parish community that is closer than it was before. You can always see that when bad things happen, it could’ve been worse. There is always a rainbow in the end.”

The church will be repaired this spring when weather is consistently warmer.

School stays in session
St. John the Baptist School at 350 Emory St. in Longmont had just completed modifications to the roof a couple weeks before the mid-September rains fell.

“The new roof failed just in time for all the rain,” said Wostenberg. “It was a tough situation; the school was in full operation, 100 percent occupied, and they lost six classrooms overnight.”

At first glance the damage appeared to involve water-logged carpet, damaged ceilings and walls, and ruined books and supplies, according to Joanie Willden, director of communications. However further assessment uncovered trace amounts of asbestos. As a result, the area was isolated and asbestos abated. It was a challenge to keep the school open, while at the same time repair a significant portion of it.

“Eidos (Architects) helped us figure out how to isolate the damaged portion so the school could continue to operate in the undamaged portion safely,” Wostenberg said, adding that environmental testing was done continually to confirm safety.

Repair work was also needed in the middle school, gym and locker rooms. Overall damage was estimated at $300,000.

For six months, the community—with the help of the school maintenance team, administration, the parish under the leadership of Father Ron Weissbeck, Himmelmann Construction and the archdiocese—has shifted rooms as needed to successfully remain in the school.

“Our IT department also set up a complete set of computers and Smart Boards,” Wilden added. “So our teaching staff could continue to give our students the same high quality education our families expect.”

They are proud of the unity and team spirit that prevailed through the “dark time,” Wilden said.

“Our school has weathered many rains since it was established in 1922,” she said. “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Though St. John’s has experienced a hardship, we find what remains is a sense of awe and gratitude as our school and the Longmont community came together when the unexpected occurred.”

Work was expected to be completed March 31.

Other significant restoration projects in the archdiocese at or nearing completion include St. Thomas Aquinas Center and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Boulder, and Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash