Most parishes and Catholic schools in the Anchorage Archdiocese suffered only minor damage following the 7.0 earthquake that rocked Southcentral Alaska on Nov. 30. St. Andrew Church in Eagle River, however, was hit particularly hard.
On the feast day of the parish’s patron — Saint Andrew — the building shook with force at 8:29 a.m.
Fortunately the parish had previously rescheduled its regular 9 a.m. Mass to 7 p.m. to encourage more parishioners to attend the liturgy on the feast saint.
“If normal morning Mass had not been cancelled, many more people would have been in the church preparing, greatly increasing the possibility of injury or worse,” wrote parochial administrator Father Arthur Roraff on a GoFundMe campaign website to help raise money to repair the church. “The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways even in scheduling matters!”
With the parish located just 10 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, the church saw chandeliers crash to the floor, statues smash to pieces, stained glass art shatter, whole pieces of sheetrock fall from high above the pews, and furnace boiler pipes separate, which spewed glycol all over the floor.
Additionally the roof drain pulled away from the wall, causing rain and water to damage the office area, and three-quarter-inch crack opened up the floor in front of the sanctuary, running across the entire nave of the church.
“Despite substantial damage to our beautiful church building, the church’s structural engineer determined that the structure was still safe to occupy, so we continued with our St. Andrew’s Day Mass that evening,” Father Roraff wrote on the GoFundMe website.
In order to celebrate Mass, the parish was “forced to move to the narthex due to the debris from fallen chandelier lights, broken stained glass and statues, and pieces of drywall littering the nave,” Father Roraff said of the Nov. 30 liturgy. “It was a beautiful Mass, held by candle light as the electricity was out following the quake with people wearing their winter jackets because the furnace was not yet working. We had much to give thanks to God for as there were no fatalities or major injuries resulting from this dramatic earthquake.”
Considered by many to be one of the more beautiful churches in the Anchorage Archdiocese, the cost to fully repair the building will exceed the parish’s insurance deductible of about $650,000, Father Roraff explained.
“[It] has become clear that we are facing a great financial challenge,” he observed, noting that the parish still has $5 million to go before it has fully paid off the initial cost of constructing the building just 12 years ago.
“I am asking for your prayers for our parish community as we face this challenge, that we may have renewed trust in God to provide for us, continued perseverance in faith, and a renewed commitment to our mission to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world,” Father Roraff wrote. “I would also ask you to prayerfully consider if you are able to help us financially with these unforeseen costs for repairs to our beautiful church. Any amount would be helpful and greatly appreciated.”