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Microburst forces St. Jude Mission to close temporarily

SPRINGFIELD — High winds caused by the July 26 microburst that struck parts of Springfield and surrounding communities has forced the temporary closure of St. Jude Mission Church in Indian Orchard.
“We had been hoping to use at least part of the church for some lesser-attended Masses. But a further assessment of the damage by our experts makes it clear that this is not possible for the time being,” Father Bill Pomerleau, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church on Boston Road, said. “Parish staff did not realize that the church’s roof structure had been damaged until mid-August, when a heavy rainstorm caused water to leak into the main body of the church.
“I thought it was strange, since until then, the roof was in good shape. When a diocesan consultant went into the attic the next morning to investigate the leak, he discovered damage to the roof structure,” he continued.
Two structural engineers hired by the Diocese of Springfield report that support beams above the church’s main seating area have cracked, and trusses, which support the church’s two-tiered roof have shifted. In addition, an upper wall at the back of the attic area has begun to collapse.
Diocesan officials initially thought that the parish could continue to use a chapel in a side wing of the church building. But when a second inspection after Hurricane Irene revealed further shifting of the damaged wall, it was decided to close the entire church.
“As disruptive as this is for our parishioners, we cannot compro-mise the safety of anyone using our building. A roof collapse during another weather event could be catastrophic,” Pomerleau said.
St. Jude, which operates out of a 1880s era brick building at 221 Main St., Indian Orchard, became a mission church in November 2009 as part of a diocesan pastoral re-organization. It shares adminis-trative offices and staff with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and is served by two priests, two permanent deacons, and lay staff.
Prior to this announcement, St. Jude hosted three weekend and five weekdays Masses. Its hall, which is located in the basement of the building, hosted numerous community and parish meetings throughout the week.
St. Jude’s 4 p.m. Saturday Mass has been combined with a Mass at the same hour at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart has added a St. Jude Mass in English on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., and a Mass in Spanish at noon. The weekday Masses at St. Jude will now be celebrated at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at their original hours.
Meetings of the Indian Orchard Narcotics Anonymous chapter, which had met for two weeks Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, will move to Immaculate Conception Church on Parker Street on Sept. 14.
“We have already contacted our diocesan insurance carrier, and should agree on how to proceed in the near future. My hope is to repair the damage and re-occupy all parts of the building as soon as possible,” Pomerleau said. “In the meantime, we are adjusting to this emergency well. Two years of working together as mission church and mother church have prepared us for this situation.”
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