High winds rip the roof off St. Joseph Catholic Church

High winds rip the roof of St. Joseph Catholic Church
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 7:24 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 10:17 PM CST
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VANDERBURGH CO., Ind. (WFIE) - Friday’s high winds ripped the roof off one of the oldest churches in Vanderburgh County.

St. Joseph Catholic Church was built in 1841. It burned down in a fire in the 1880s and was rebuilt in 1888.

Friday afternoon, the roof gave way to the winds, with large pieces landing in the church parking lot. Other pieces hit a nearby house.

“It was really something. It lifted the whole thing up, and came down,” said Father Gene Schroeder, the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church. “Half of it was in the yard next to the church, a good portion of it is in our neighbor’s yard over here.”

That home belongs to Harry Lincoln and his wife. He said they took cover when they looked through the storm and saw the roof barreling toward them.

“Me and the wife were standing in the window watching and all the sudden everything got dark and you heard it go boom and we looked out and this was all in the yard,” Lincoln said.

He says there’s a lot of damage around his property. He’s glad the church’s roof hit his garage, and not the window he and his wife were standing behind.

The now-damaged church held a special place in Lincoln’s heart.

“We was married here,” he said. “We’ve been married 59 years in September so we’ve been here a long time.”

Father Schroeder kept a positive attitude despite the damage to the building.

“Then they built this church in 1888 for $15,000 can you imagine that,” Schroeder said.

He anticipates it will cost a lot more to put a new roof on the building.

Meanwhile, he says his church plans to meet Sunday, just under a different roof.

Immediately after the roof came off the church, Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Deputies were on scene, creating a perimeter around the building. They said they were worried the church’s steeple was unstable due to damage caused by the dislodged roof.

Members of the building commission were at the scene, along with German Township firefighters, to assess the damage and salvage what they could from inside the building.

Despite the damage sustained at the church, parishioners still managed to hold their weekly fish fry.

Organizers say they made over 900 meals for people.

They say it’s a tradition, and they figured as long as it was safe, they were going to keep it running.

Jodi Fehrenbacher says she and everyone else helping out was ready to go.

“It took me a minute to gather my thoughts and then I went into what can we do next mode,” Fehrenbacher said. “That’s what we do we all come together, we think of what’s next and how can we keep the day going?”

Church leaders say their next fish fry will be held on March 17.

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