After the Flood, a Renewal

Cedar Rapids is still recovering from the flood of 2008. The northern tributaries of the Mississippi overflowed six years ago, leaving 10 square miles of Iowa’s second largest city underwater.

Among the devastation were many houses of worship. We arrived at St. Patrick’s Parish and saw a beautiful stone church and adjacent office. Peering into a window of the parish office it was obvious that it was being renovated.

Occupying buildings behind what was the church was a temporary church space and parish offices. Upon entering the new parish office is a keepsake clock. It is unusually discolored below a stark line in the finish, marking the flood’s waterline in the city.

We were cordially welcomed by Father Ivan Nienhaus, who invited us to place the Black Madonna in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel. We normally place the icon in the sanctuary of the church, but we quickly learned that their Eucharistic Adoration chapel has been serving the St. Patrick’s community as a small church where daily Mass is celebrated. The Black Madonna rested next to her Son in the very busy Adoration Chapel that is open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday through Friday. The Black Madonna received a steady stream of visitors throughout the day and night.

Although this church is named for the patron saint of Ireland, the community is mainly Czech. Czech immigration into Iowa was initially into farming communities; particularly the Northeast corner of Iowa in the city of Spillville, when Czechs first arrived in Iowa around 1850. Later many Czech immigrants who came to Cedar Rapids worked in Sinclair’s meatpacking plant that was owned by an Irish immigrant T.M. Sinclair. Czech immigrants wrote home and encouraged others to come since T.M. Sinclair was well known for hiring immigrant workers. Today, Cedar Rapids has the largest Czech population of any city outside of Europe.

The Catholic Faith came to Poland through the baptism of Mieszko I in 966 A.D. It is thought that the Bohemian (Czech) princess Dobrawa contributed to his decision to be baptized.4 Slavic people, the local Czech community showed a wonderful devotion to the Black Madonna during her visit. Fr. West celebrated two Masses and spoke to area directors of religious education about Our Lady of Czestochowa. We thank God that such an opportunity arose to further spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and to have more praying for the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of life. It was good to see so many Czech people, whose history is so closely intertwined with Poland’s, sharing the devotion.

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