‘Almost… Gone with the Wind’ bazaar puts humorous spin on church repairs from tornado

May 14, 2024

Repairs are nearly finished in the education classroom building at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Deer Park after an EF3 tornado winds of more than 130 mph in January of 2023 peeled off its roof, breaking windows and weakening walls. No one was injured at the church complex, but the storm inflicted millions of dollars in damages with hopes of having repairs completed by June 1. (Photo courtesy of St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Deer Park)

DEER PARK — Although it was no laughing matter when a tornado last year tore up St. Hyacinth Catholic Church and the Deer Park community, parishioners tried to find the silver lining with their recent bazaar. 

Father Reginald Samuels, pastor at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Deer Park, was hunkered down in his church office hallway along with staff on Jan. 24, 2023, after they heard severe storm warnings and a tornado approaching the area.  

As they huddled together praying the “Hail Mary,” EF3 winds of more than 130 mph peeled off the roof of the church’s connecting education building with loud crashing, windows breaking and swirling debris flying by.  

No one was injured at the church complex, but the storm inflicted millions of dollars in damages. The church has been busy with repairs for the past year and four months, with hopes of having them completed by June 1, he said. 

“So, our bazaar committee chaired by Raul Turner decided on the title ‘Almost…Gone with the Wind!’” Father Samuels said and chuckled. “But seriously, the community and the Archdiocese have been very supportive in getting us back on track. However, it has been challenging due to the number of parishioners also affected by tornado damage to their own homes.” 

The 19-mile swath of the destructive tornado also damaged homes and businesses in southeast Houston, Pasadena and Baytown, as well as Deer Park, but no deaths were reported and only minor injuries. 

Parishioners returned tearfully but joyfully celebrating Sunday Mass with Father Samuels five days after the tornado hit. Debris piles in the parking lot were curtained off by fencing, while broken windows and doors were boarded up. 

“After the initial damage to the complex, we were able to get some power back and began with one Mass each Sunday,” he said. “After regular power was installed and we brought in temporary restrooms for the church, we were able to bring back daily Mass and a reduced schedule of three Masses on the weekend.” 

As repairs to the education building continued, the church resumed faith formation classes. Teachers combined grades and classes to serve the young students and their families, he said. 

But just as the scene seemed almost back to normal, the week of this April 28 Sunday bazaar again saw numerous weather reports predicting severe storms throughout Texas and beyond, bringing back the post-traumatic stress. 

“We’ve been having these severe thunderstorms and then tornado warnings all that week, with some ripping through other counties and states,” Father Samuels said. “The weather continues to be on my mind, especially since we will be entering hurricane season in another month!” 

The rain held off on the day of the bazaar despite cloudy skies and instead poured down the next day on Monday, April 29.  

Bazaar committee chair Turner said, “It was challenging trying to set up outside for the game booths and streaming festive pennant flags around the property due to the continuous strong gusts throughout the week, but it all stopped the day of the festival.  We were blessed.” 

He added, “Not only was the festival successful in raising money for the church but also much-needed fellowship within our community. Rebuilding our parish and our spirit.  Father was specific in telling me he wanted an event to invite everyone to church in celebration.”  

So, the bazaar tents for games, food and other entertainment raised about $45,000 for the church’s operating expenses. 

“Thanks be to God,” said Father Samuels as he sighed.