Renovated Church in Ruins Following Flood
Fr. Ric Polmounter of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated daily morning mass Thursday but not where he's been accustomed to the past five years as pastor. The service was held at Father Nallin Hall on parish grounds that weren't flooded this month. "They had sandbagged all of the front doors and the side doors of the church," said Fr. Ric. He and his congregation thought their house of worship would be spared. "We stayed until it reached probably the doors of the church and we had to evacuate." "It was unbelievable. We had no idea it was going to come in the front door," said longtime parishioner Dolores Kennedy of Tunkhannock.
Floodwaters of Tunkhannock Creek inundated East Tioga Street and Nativity B.V.M. on September 8th. The church had just two-days earlier completed a three month, $150,000 interior renovation project. "The changes made and the stenciling and it was a really beautiful accomplishment," said Mrs. Kennedy. The renovated church is now filled with fans and a dehumidifier. Some drywall has already been removed. "It went right up to the altar cloths," he said while looking through photographs of the damage.
Father Ric hopes the altar's flood-stained marble tiling and floors can be salvaged. Seeing the renovated church in ruins is hard for parishioners to take. "Some of them just moved totally to tears. It's heartbreaking but we all know that the church is certainly much more than a building." Nativity B.V.M. wasn't the only church property to get hit by the high water. Flooding also swamped the basement of the rectory and caused great damage to Nazareth Hall -- a building used by the Knights of Columbus and also a food pantry that had a month or more food supply for a community in need.
Besides repairing church property, Fr. Rick says it's even more important to rebuild the community at large. "We have to look at people's lives that have been uprooted and shattered. People that don't have homes to go to." Despite all of the damage, the parish has pulled together with great resolve. "By getting together, working together I think they're a much stronger community."
Fr. Ric hopes that insurance covers most of the repair costs whatever that cost may be. While there is no set timetable for Nativity B.V.M. in Tunkhannock to reopen, Fr. Ric is hopeful it will happen in time for Christmas.