Colorado wildfires force Mass cancellations, evacuations near parishes
A massive wildfire that started around the popular hiking spot Waldo Canyon west of Colorado Springs forced the evacuation of neighborhoods around several parishes and the cancellation of Sunday Masses at two parishes in the Colorado Springs Diocese.
Holy Rosary Chapel in Cascade and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Manitou Springs canceled Sunday Mass June 24 after authorities determined they could be in the path of the wildfire and forced evacuations of those surrounding communities.
The novitiate for the Order of the Holy Cross in Cascade was also evacuated and priests and novices were relocated to Sacred Heart Church in the Old Colorado City neighborhood in west Colorado Springs. Sacred Heart Parish is run by Holy Cross priests.
As of June 27, the fire had consumed more than 15,000 acres and leaped over a ridge into the Mountain Shadow and Cedar Heights neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. No casualties have been reported and no churches have been damaged.
More than 200 homes are estimated to have burned down as of June 26. Neighborhoods around St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs, including Mount St. Francis Nursing Home, were also evacuated June 26.
Father Brad Noonan, a longtime Colorado Springs fire chaplain before being assigned as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Castle Rock, has visited the site several times and has been available for the needs of firefighters and affected residents. He said the pastoral approach to help them is to “just try to be present to them.”
“Asking how they’re doing and what can we can do for them is the pastoral and practical thing,” he said. “It’s a very hard experience.”
In addition to the three parishes affected, among those displaced have been a handful of employees of the Catholic Pastoral Center, located in downtown Colorado Springs.
“Together with the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, I offer prayers for everyone who has been affected and, in some cases displaced, by the Waldo Canyon wildfire,” Colorado Springs Bishop Michael J. Sheridan said in a June 26 statement.
“We also pray for the firefighters and volunteers who are working hard to contain the wildfire and serve the needs of those affected. We are grateful for your courage, generosity and sacrifice, and we are heartened to see communities rallying together during this trying time,” he said. [More]