By Emily Drooby
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Destruction is a new and difficult sight for Church of the Assumption parishioner Mark Cassman to see. Just two days prior to the Tennessee tornadoes, the church had welcomed parishioners for Sunday Mass. Now a sign on the door warns them to stay away.
“It’s kind of shocking to see these signs on these doors, that simply says danger, do not enter, keep away. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” he said.
The second oldest Catholic Church in Nashville, Church of the Assumption was ravaged by the tornadoes.
“This whole entire wall is leaning south,” explained Cassman as he showed Currents News how the tornadoes caused the wall to separate from the roof.
The damage was severe; stained-glass windows were blown out, a hole in the sacristy’s brick wall allows light inside and the massive steeple on top of the church now leans to the south side like the wall.
“It happened so quickly. It was all in about 30 seconds,” explained pastor, Father Bede Price. He was in the rectory early on Tuesday, March 3, when the tornadoes blew through. He ran to the church after hearing a loud crash.
“All the vestments had been blown out of the cabinets and were in heaps around the room and there was dust everywhere,” said Fr. Bede. “I was afraid the church was going to collapse, so we took the Blessed Sacrament over to the rectory.”
Fr. Bede and others risked their lives to save the religious art and artifacts from the unstable church. They are storing the items in the rectory for now.
In the wake of the storm, another hero stepped up — Mark Cassman. His family has been a part of the parish for about 10 years. “I showed up to be an extra set of hands and saw that there was nobody really leading the effort, so I just kind of stepped up and took it,” he explained.
He is donating his time to serve as a point person, getting the word out on social media and organizing volunteers. While the future of the church is uncertain, Cassman said one thing is for sure: the tenacity of their community.
“The faith is lived out by the people, and to see this community come together like this, it’s really amazing,” he said. “It’s inspiring and comforting to know that in dark times, you still have family that will take care of you.”
The parish is trying to recover from the devastating hit. According to Fr. Bede, it’s going to be expensive.
“The parish doesn’t actually have a lot of money, so maintaining the buildings is a constant worry for the pastor. Every time a window pane breaks you have to write a check for $500 it seems like, and nothing around here is normal, you can’t just go to Lowes and replace things,” he explained.
Their insurance should pay for a good amount of it. The parish is also accepting donations online at assumptionchurchnashville.org.