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NJ church gives thanks to Grand Forks church for aid, prayers

People of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Long Branch, N.J., battered last week by Superstorm Sandy and anxious about a Nor'easter storm predicted for today, took time Tuesday to give thanks in advance for help coming from Grand Forks.

St. Michael's Church and School in Grand Forks
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People of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Long Branch, N.J., battered last week by Superstorm Sandy and anxious about a Nor'easter storm predicted for today, took time Tuesday to give thanks in advance for help coming from Grand Forks.

The New Jersey congregation took a collection in 1997 to help St. Michael's Church and School in Grand Forks after the great flood caused more than $4 million in damage.

St. Michael's here plans to repay the gesture with special collections this weekend.

"We're very grateful for whatever they do," said Debbie Patella, director of development for the New Jersey church.

"We don't have a clear picture of all our damages," she said. "We had a problem already with our church being a brick building and the ocean beating us up. We had some additional damage from Sandy, and now the next storm is coming (today) and Thursday.

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"They say it's going to be a coastal disaster, this next one. So here we go again."

She said the Rev. Charles Weiser, pastor at St. Michael's in Long Branch, has written in the church newsletter about the offer of help from Grand Forks and the 1997 connection behind it.

Heart-warming

Patella said she remembers when the Rev. William Sherman, then at St. Michael's in Grand Forks, traveled to Long Branch to explain what the 1997 flood had done to the church and its people. He returned to Grand Forks with a donation of $12,000 for flood relief. Now retired, Sherman approached church leaders this week about returning the gesture, and they agreed.

"We have a lot of people here who were here when we made our collection" in 1997, Patella said. "It's so heart-warming to know that someone cares and remembers what you did for them."

She said some buildings near the church "were wiped out," including a historical beach club that was across the street. "They ended up on our front lawn."

There was "complete devastation in about a 20-miles radius," she said. Many members of St. Michael's congregation suffered damage to their homes, "and some are homeless."

The church, while damaged, "didn't miss a beat with Masses," she said.

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The church's St. Vincent de Paul program collects food for the poor and regularly helps people with electric bills, rent and medical needs, and a second collection at each Mass Sunday will be to sustain that effort.

"There are people who were behind the eight-ball before, and now this," Patella said, so any assistance from the people of St. Michael's in Grand Forks will be appreciated.

"We could use their prayers, too," she said.

Call Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1102; or send email to chaga@gfherald.com .

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