St. Paul and St. Francis parishes help tornado victims

Father Bill Hearne, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca and St. Francis of Assisi Mission in Walhalla, presents a check May 14 for $60,000 to Seneca Mayor Dan Alexander outside city hall. The Catholic community raised the money for the city’s tornado relief fund. (Provided)

SENECA—Father Bill Hearne, who is the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church and its mission, St. Francis of Assisi in Walhalla, issued a challenge to his flock to help the people affected by a severe tornado that roared through parts of Seneca recently.

The early-morning storm damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes and businesses, and took the life of a 77-year-old security guard on duty that morning at an automotive parts facility in the city.

Neither St. Paul nor St. Francis suffered damage from the storm, but the two parishes responded to their pastor’s call by donating $60,000 to the city’s Tornado Relief Fund.

“Parishioners have been extremely generous,” said Justin Dery, director of ministries at St. Paul and St. Francis.

Father Hearne presented a check May 14 for $60,000 to Seneca Mayor Dan Alexander during a ceremony outside city hall.

According to city reports, the storm caused damage to residential property totaling an estimated $11 million.

Dery said money placed in the Tornado Relief Fund is being used to provide temporary housing for those impacted by the storm, and to pay for tree removal, restoration of electrical power, roof repair, and other expenses related to “getting people back in their houses.”

Members of the St. Paul Benevolence/Social Outreach ministries will participate in the review and distribution of the donated funds, Dery said.

Around 1,600 households are currently registered at St. Paul and St. Francis, he said. The parishes’ outreach ministries include volunteering, financially supporting and serving on the board at the Golden Corner Food Pantry, and volunteering and/or financially supporting Our Daily Bread, Guardian ad Litem, Foothills Care Center, Ride-To-Work Ministry Nonprofit Inc., Ripple of One, Our Daily Rest, Collins Home, and others. 

In addition, the St. Paul Benevolence Ministry provides help with rent and utility bills to about 50 local residents each year, regardless of religious affiliation, Dery said.

For more information on helping victims of the tornado, contact Justin Dery at