Rain had just begun to fall as bells tolled Saturday evening, signaling the start of Mass at St. Paul Catholic Church in Ellicott City, where parishioners gathered to pray for victims of the previous weekend’s flood.
Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori presided at the service to pray for residents and businesses affected by Ellicott City’s May 27 flood, including Sgt. Eddison Hermond, a National Guardsman who had been swept away in rushing waters. The church on St. Paul Street sits just up a hill from Ellicott City’s Main Street.
After the flood, Lori said, he called St. Paul’s pastor, the Rev. Warren Tanghe, and asked if he could host a Mass. The church typically holds a service on Saturdays at 5 p.m.
“In time of tragedy and in time of severe difficulty, one of the things we need to do is to be present to one another,” Lori said in an interview before the service. “It might not change in a heartbeat the tragedy or the problem you’re facing, but we just need one another’s presence when we are going through something like this. And not only do we need one another’s presence, we need the Lord’s presence.”
That was the message he shared with a congregation of more than 100 during his homily Saturday as rain fell and Howard County weathered another flood warning.
“A number of you I know were able to view your flood-damaged properties today, and I know that you face difficult questions and difficult decisions as you look to the future,” Lori said. “I came today just to be with you, just to pray with you, just to offer a word of love, a word of encouragement in a tough time and to remind you, as I must remind myself, of the Lord’s abiding presence in our midst.”
Lori’s visit coincided with the church’s observance of the Feast of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation in communion. He linked the presence of Jesus in communion to the presence community members owe each other in times of need.
“In reaching out to your friends and neighbors who are also going through tough times, you give evidence that the Christ you receive in the Eucharist lives in you, speaks in your voice, serves the needs of others through your hands.” he said.
He encouraged the congregation to continue giving selflessly even in the most trying times. “For that is the key to rebuilding not only our town but also our very lives,” Lori said.
Later in the service, parishioners prayed for Hermond, a 39-year-old Air Force veteran who was trying to save a shop owner trapped by the flood when he was swept away.
Hermond’s funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Church at Severn Run in Severn. A public visitation will be held 30 minutes before the service, and he will be buried at Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.
Ellicott City residents Dan and Patti Medinger were among the St. Paul parishioners at Saturday’s service.
“It’s just a great parish, and people pull together to help the community get back together, I’m sure, just as we did two years ago,” Dan Medinger said.
They had friends who lost businesses in the flood.
“There’s almost like a loss of hope in some ways, but we believe that there’s going to be some resilience,” he said. “I think today would be a good day to pray for them all.”