The Fatima centennial has rightly been in the news lately, but another centennial may be of interest to the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita.
Father Michael Peltzer, a diocesan historian, wrote to the Catholic Advance last week about a tornado that struck Andale, Kansas, on May 25, 1917, two weeks after the Fatima apparition.
On that Friday afternoon – the last day of school – a storm struck the small town killing 13 members of St. Joseph Parish.
Father Peltzer’s grandmother, who was a young bride at the time, told him that she remembered the event as if it were yesterday.
His grandmother, who passed away in 1985, said she recalls 13 coffins lining the main aisle of St. Joseph Church, which was undamaged by the twister. Six of the coffins belonged to members of one family, the parents, and all four of their children.
Father Peltzer said as one walks through the parish cemetery, the date May 25, 1917, is repeated on many headstones.
There may have been more deaths had not Miss Knoblauch, the rectory housekeeper warned those in the school, and Msgr. Bernard Schmiehausen, the pastor, and the Adorers of the Blood of Christ teaching at the school, kept the children in the school during the storm instead of sending them home. The school also was not damaged.
According to the June 2, 1917, edition of The Catholic Advance, a total of 25 people died, 75 were injured, and 100 houses and 25 businesses were destroyed, in addition to the 200 farm animals and crops that were lost.
Msgr. Schmiehausen chose to buried among those who were killed by the tornado, but possibly because of divine intervention, his headstone in St. Joseph’s cemetery reads Oct. 29, 1923.