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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Life lost, church and other buildings damaged in natural gas explosion

A deadly natural gas explosion that rocked the downtown square of Canton, Illinois, on 16th November also temporarily knocked the faith community of St Mary’s Parish out of their damaged church, located just a block east of the blast site.

“The good thing is we have somewhere to be,” said Fr Daniel Ebker, parish priest, as he celebrated Sunday Mass four days later in the St Mary’s Parish Centre.

On the evening of the explosion, Fr Ebker opened the centre as a rest area for first responders, city crews and utility workers and stayed there throughout the night. The blast, which killed one utility worker and injured 11 others, occurred just before 6pm as workers with the local power company attempted repairs after a third-party contractor had ruptured a gas line behind the city’s historic Opera House.

The explosion rendered three buildings a total loss and damaged nearly 50 other structures, among them the nearby 111-year-old St Mary’s Church.

Inspectors subsequently found no structural damage to the church and all of its stained-glass windows remained intact – unlike the majority of storefront windows on the city square which were blown out by the blast. But ceiling plaster had cracked, resulting in quarter-sized pieces or smaller falling throughout the church.

Picture: The back of the opera house in Canton, Ill., is seen on 20th November, four days after a natural gas explosion unnerved the community. (CNS photo/Tom Dermody, The Catholic Post).