Good News for Joplin


If you are like me you have wondering what is going on with St. Mary’s Church.  This article in the Joplin Globe puts some of those questions to rest.

St. Mary's after the tornado

November 13, 2011

St. Mary’s cross to be preserved

By Andy Ostmeyer
Globe Metro Editor

If you are like me you have wondering what is going on with St. Mary’s Church.  This article by Andy Ostmeyer puts some of those questions to rest.

JOPLIN, Mo. — On Friday morning, Jim Wills stopped by the tall iron cross that was the only thing left standing after St. Mary’s Catholic Church was hit by the May 22 tornado.

Wills, 80, of Seneca, helped make that cross nearly a half-century ago.

“This is known all over the world now,” the Rev. Justin Monaghan, pastor of St. Mary’s, told Wills.

Monaghan on Friday announced plans to preserve the weathered cross.

“We’re going to take it up and put it down again, and get it stabilized,” he said. “We’re going to put it in the same spot.”

Monaghan also said land just north of the cross, where the rectory formerly was located, will be filled in, leveled and covered with grass, and some benches may be added so people can visit the site and pray there.

The storm passed directly over 25th Street and Moffet Avenue, destroying the church, rectory, parish center, Catholic elementary school and the St. Vincent de Paul center, which was the original church building.

Despite the devastation, the cross itself quickly became a symbol of hope and faith for many in the hours and days after the storm, which claimed 161 lives, injured more than 1,000 people, and damaged or destroyed nearly 8,000 homes.

Monaghan said his sister, who lives in Ireland, recognized a picture of the cross the next day on television. Church groups and others from around the country have stopped by the cross to pray. A country band used it as a backdrop for a music video this summer. Six months after the tornado, the church still gets letters and cards from people all over the world who say they are amazed and grateful that the cross survived.

Wills on Friday said the cross was designed by Bill Gardner, of Ozark Engineering.

“I did all the welding on that,” Wills said while gazing up at it.

Wills’ daughter, Julie West, took him to the cross, which was put up in the late 1960s when the church was built.

“I think there’s a reason it’s standing,” West said. “I think it is to give hope to everyone and to let them know God is still here with us.”

While the cross will remain on the site, Empire District Electric Co. has acquired some of the land that once belonged to St. Mary’s to expand its substation along 26th Street.

New church

A strategic planning committee that was formed after the storm, with representatives from St. Mary’s as well as St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Joplin and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Webb City, has recommended that the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau build a larger church to replace the one destroyed on May 22. Bishop James Johnston is reviewing options and locations for the new church and elementary school.


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