Local Parishes

The flood of ’07

Flood affects Osawatomie parishioners

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org OSAWATOMIE — Never has such a hackneyed phrase been so true for St. Philip Neri Parish here: All will be well “if the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.”

The floodwaters, which drove more than 200 individuals from their homes on June 30 and July 1 in Osawatomie, have not touched the church and rectory. Some parishioners, however, have not fared so well.

“[We’ve] found that four parishioners and their families have lost their homes,” said Leona Hoskins, a St. Philip parishioner. “One who lost her car and home — everything — is a lady who has been a member of our parish for 71 years.”

Hoskins said the parish will activate its prayer chain to discover how parishioners are faring, but many have relocated to temporary refuge at the grade school or with relatives.

Father Jerry Arano-Ponce, pastor of St. Philip Neri, was ministering at this two other parishes — Our Lady of Lourdes in La Cygne and Sacred Heart in Mound City — when the floodwaters blocked his return to Osawatomie.

“I have not been able to go back to town since Saturday,” said Father Arano-Ponce. “It was just impossible to drive on the roads. I’ve been communicating with my parishioners by telephone. Hopefully, I will make it back to town [Monday evening].”

Father Arano-Ponce said on July 2 that he was going to work with parish volunteers to get in touch with his parishioners to discover what kind of help they need.

“I’ll try to also stay in contact with other pastors in town through the ministerial alliance to see how we can pull together our resources,” he said, “and also help the local authorities to assist the victims of this flood.”

Osawatomie lies between the Pottawatomie and Marais des Cygnes rivers, just west of their confluence. Recent rains have swelled rivers from East Texas to eastern Kansas.

According to Mike Stiles, Osawatomie chief of police, the Pottawatomie River  topped its levee on the southwest side of town the morning of July 1. The waters flooded the south, southwest and southeastern areas of the city. Some 200 people sought refuge in centers set up in Osawatomie schools, and several others with friends and relatives.

“The southeast part of town is where there is low-income housing and apartments,” said Julie Hoskins, daughter-in-law of Leona Hoskins. She lives slightly more than three miles north of Osawatomie.

“The water was up to the roofs on these buildings, just inside the dike. Those [structures] are pretty much gone,” she said.

The Kansas National Guard, Miami County law enforcement entities, the Kansas Highway Patrol, and the Osawatomie Fire Department evacuated people from the flooded areas.

The rivers are receding, but the hard work of cleanup remains.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Chief Stiles. “We’ve got the cleanup coming, and we’re still dealing with people coming back to town. We’ve got to get the water pumped out of homes so we can begin the cleanup. It will be a long process. We’re trying to get people back to their homes as soon as possible, and [get] the electricity turned back on. As far as the homes in the water, I can’t tell you how long [recovery] will be.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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