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Historic Storm Flooded Catholic Schools, Parishes

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A powerful storm on Jan. 22, 2024, severely flooded St. John of the Cross School, in Lemon Grove. Students will not be able to attend classes there for at least a month.

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SAN DIEGO — With residents already bracing for additional winter storms, San Diego and Imperial counties continue to deal with the aftermath of recent record rainfall.Jan. 22 is now the fourth wettest day on record in San Diego County, which received 2.73 inches of rain. That rain led to extensive flooding and property damage. And Catholic parishes, schools and other institutions were not immune to the storm’s destructive effects.

Rachel’s Promise, a 40-bed shelter for homeless women in downtown San Diego operated by Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, was flooded. Its residents were evacuated to another Catholic Charities facility across the street, Rachel’s Women’s Center.Robert Blodgett, claims/risk manager with Catholic Mutual Group, said the storm damage at local Catholic parishes and schools was primarily due to the heavy downpour and water accumulation.“Unfortunately,” he said, “many of our properties were unprepared for such an event, resulting in extensive water in classrooms, churches and office spaces.”Perhaps hardest hit was St. John of the Cross School in Lemon Grove, where almost all of the classrooms were flooded.On Jan. 24 and 25, the school’s Facebook page posted photos of flooded corridors, muddy classroom floors and water-damaged ceilings. In one striking image, a statue of the Blessed Mother stood in the midst of the sea of muddy water that had been the schoolyard.

“Our school has been devastated by the recent floods,” the Jan. 24 post said. “Water and mud penetrated every room. … We have serious structure damage and loss of materials.”

 The next day’s post announced that the school would be evacuated for a month, with a temporary shift to online instruction.“This was a natural disaster, but we will re-build and we will overcome,” the school promised.

Leticia Oseguera, diocesan Superintendent for Schools, said she’s been working with Greg Krumm, principal of St. John of the Cross School, to identify a location where in-person classes could be held during the month the campus will be closed.

“We are trying to secure a relocation site as soon as possible, and we might be asking for the Catholic community to help with donations to help the school during this transition,” she said
In addition to the school, St. John of the Cross Parish’s church and hall also sustained damage.Other locations that sustained storm damage include: school classrooms, the office building and the adoration chapel at Sacred Heart Parish, Coronado; the parish office at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish; classrooms and hallways at St. Rita School; the church building at St. Didacus Parish; the hall in the church basement at Blessed Sacrament Parish; classrooms at St. Katherine Drexel Academy; classrooms and offices at Santa Sophia Parish; classrooms and the teacher’s lounge at St. Martin of Tours Academy in La Mesa; and the rectory at St. Therese Parish in Del Cerro.

Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor, executive director of Catholic Charities, said that his organization is working with the landlord for the Rachel’s Promise property to restore the space.“We do not have an ETA on when the restoration work will be completed,” he told The Southern Cross on Jan. 24.

Because Rachel’s Promise is fully funded by the San Diego Housing Commission, he said that Catholic Charities is working with that agency to resolve the situation and also to secure additional resources for its residents.

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