Friday, October 8, 2010

Wind and Rain and Wind and (did I say wind?)

Well if you have been following the tropics you know we have had storm after storm. The first tropical depression left us and went up the east coast (actually cancelling a Red Sox Yankees game) but while it was here it was wind and rain central. Now let me explain wind when it comes to a tropical storm on Andros.

First, Andros is flat and we are on a cliff facing east. On one end of the church we have an efficiency apartment for visiting priests. Its a very nice set up, however the windows are mechanical crank-out windows and, over the years, with the salt air blowing on them, several of the cranks no longer work.

Knowing we were in for a bit of 'a blow', with the wind at a mild 15-20 mph I went around that end of the church to check them out. Well, to my surprise, one of the panes was already lying at a crooked angle and another had also become loose so, as a precaution, I went into the garage and pulled out the hurricane shutters for that end of the building. I knew this was not a hurricane, but at the very least I wanted to keep the water from blowing into the apartment.

So I grab an armful of these corrigated aluminum sheets and a bucket of clips that clip the sheet of aluminum to fasteners that are screwed into the concrete walls and begin to put them up. All the while the wind is raging and, once or twice, it picked up my pile of shutters and blew them across the yard. Eventually I had that end of the church covered and I knew it would be safer.

Well as night settled it the wind grew stronger, power went out, and pretty much stayed out for most of the night. The power of God's creation was all around us as lightning and rain and wind pummelled the house that night and into the next day. Power came on and went out again but eventually that storm moved on and up to Boston.

But that wasn't the end of it - a 'frontal boundary' settled in over the Bahamas and that front just basically sat there for 4 days. The wind was nuts! Absolutely incredible. To walk the 20' from the door of the rectory to the church I literally had to lean forward in order to make it. While it was a pain to deal with, the next storm that headed towards us from Puerto Rico ran into the front and bounced off into the open Atlantic, and the same thing is happening now with what is tropical storm Otto.

So - we haven't had much time online for blog updates because either power is out, or internet is down on the island, or power is out -- island life can be interesting.

Two days ago we had wind and rain overnight that kept Ginni up all night because of the lightning. She complained the next day that she could not believe I slept through it all.
This weather has put a crimp in the work to restore St. Gabriel's church. They had dug out the pit for the septic tank, but its hard to pour concrete in a driving rain storm. Actually, pouring concrete is a misnomer here. In the US a cement truck would come and concrete would be poured out into a form to make the septic tank. Here, two men pour a bag of concrete onto the street (yes the street), then add sand, creating a pile about 3' tall. They then mix that pile by hand with shovels to get the sand and concrete all mixed together. Then they fill a 5 gallon pail with water and gradually add water while mixing and mixing and mixing until they get a nice gooey cement mixture. You can not imagine how back breaking this work is to do it by hand, but that's what they have to do, so they do it.

We still hope to be able to open the building this month, but CCD will start a few weeks late.

Our plan is to rename St. Gabriel's church, creating the 'Father Gabriel Roerig, OSB Parish Center' Fr. Gabriel was the first priest to minister on Andros. He was ordained at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota and came here directly from the Abbey, then spent over 50 years serving the people of Andros. When I read of what conditions he worked under I am embarrased when I complain about losing power and internet access. He didn't have electricity! There were no roads - yet he travelled up and down Andros building churches, baptizing babies, teaching children and adults, serving as priest, and doctor, and mason, and carpenter, and dentist - you get the idea. There is a great book documenting the history of the Catholic Church in the Bahamas, from Columbus to the 20th century, including Fr. Gabriel. It is UPON THESE ROCKS, by Coleman Barry, OSB. I got a copy on, a great read.

Here is a portrait pic of Fr. Gabriel I recieved after emailing the Abbey in MN

Here is the last known pic of him with some of his friends on Andros. I think this gives you an example of the reality of his ministry. Ours may have its difficulties, but he's become a bit of a hero to me.

Enough for now, keep us in your prayers.

Frank and Ginni

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