Cathedral weathers the storm safely

Susan Stanforth
Volunteer Beth Slesicki plays games with students during a June 25 storm while others chose to build with blocks at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Weather sirens sounded and emergency phone alerts and texts went off as preschool and kindergarten-aged youths participated in adoration in St. Margaret Chapel at Sacred Heart Cathedral June 25. Susan Stanforth, director of religious education, asked volunteers to take her students and others on the campus to the parish hall basement to seek shelter.

“I stayed in with Jesus until he was safely placed back in the tabernacle,” she said. “In my 14 years working at the cathedral, this was the first time I was working with youths when sirens went off and we were alerted to take shelter due to a tornado warning and severe thunderstorm warning.”

The youths were attending Cathedral Kids Camp, the cathedral’s version of Vacation Bible School. It was held June 24-27 this year with a closing during the 4 p.m. Mass June 29. Each evening began with an optional family meal followed by camp from 6-8 p.m. “Some parents who had been watching the weather chose to pick up their children early before the sirens went off at 7:45,” Stanforth said. The cathedral sent a Facebook message after the sirens sounded to let family and others know that students and adults were safe and had sought shelter.


“Some parents texted me to check in as well. I told everyone that we were keeping their kids safe.”

Volunteers played games with the children, sang the camp song and read stories inside two, windowless classrooms until parents arrived. Some took their children home during the storm, others arrived and stayed until they received an “all-clear” around 8:30 p.m. “Our adult volunteers were amazing to keep kids calm. We had a few kids with brief tears but we really tried our best to keep everyone calm,” Stanforth said. “The time went by pretty fast since we were busy.”

“Many of us volunteers were watching updates on our phones or getting updates from our spouses at home. I must admit, I was a bit nervous when my husband texted, ‘Might have a funnel cloud north of Palmer College the news said.’ The cathedral is just down the road from Palmer,” Stanforth said.

She is thankful for the volunteers, who ranged in age from their teens to 85 years old, for keeping everyone safe.

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