OTTAWA — It certainly didn’t seem like a blessing when Tawa Run crawled out of its banks in Ottawa in 2007, flooding both of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic School’s buildings with muddy water.
“I remember standing out in the rectory, and we were assessing the damages and what we were going to do,” said John Kahle, a member of the church’s finance committee at the time recalled Friday. “Father Tom (Hemm) didn’t say a whole lot; he was a man of few words. He just looked at us and said, ‘There are blessings in these waters.’”
That blessing, and the former pastor’s words, are on display for all to see along Locust Street today. The school blessed and cemented its granite cornerstone into place during a ceremony Friday attended by eighth-graders born the year of the flood and younger pupils who will be able to enjoy the school addition for years to come. The cornerstone includes the year 2021 and Hemm’s words.
The nearly $5 million addition includes classrooms for kindergarten through third grade, a gymnasium and an atrium. It was paid for by donations from parishioners. The finishing touches are being put on rooms now for a grand opening this fall.
“You know, God has a hand in everything, right?” Father Scott Kramer, the current pastor at the church, told the children. “Especially God can bring good things out of what seems like bad things. … When we have faith, we know God can take something bad, and if we’re willing to work together with each other and work with Him, he can take something that seems bad and make it good.”
The 2007 flood caused structural problems at the Fourth Street building, rendering its bottom floor unusable. The new addition comes off the north side of its Locust Street building, combining all grades into the same building.
The flooding was even built into the construction, with a bit of the Tawa Run water used in the mud pan, where Evan Schroeder, of Schroeder Masonry, mixed it with sand to create mortar. He and his father, Tim Schroeder, worked together to lay the cornerstone into place.
“Today we did it the old-fashioned way,” said Evan Schroeder, who is also a member of the parish and said he looks forward to sending his own children to the school in the future.
Now the cornerstone — and the building — show what can happen with a little faith, Kramer said.
“Blessings come from God, and that’s what we celebrate today,” Kramer said.