As we dream of warmer weather to encourage melting of snow in some areas of the country, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity recently found an archival account of a flood in Delaware, OH in 1913. Sister Mary Paul Vollmer recounts this terrifying, yet miraculous story.
March 25, 1913
On the early morning of about 2 a.m. on March 25, 1913, the Sisters missioned at St. Mary’s Convent in Delaware, OH were awakened by the sound of mighty, rushing waters, namely, Sisters Rose, Patricia, Hortense, Cleopha, Theresa, Leocadia, Agnella and Marcella rose from their beds, found themselves groping about in darkness, as all electricity had been cut off, looked outside and saw their convent and neighboring homes surrounded by water. Later, they learned the cause. Ice blocks had jammed against a railroad bridge over the Olétangy river causing the water to back up and flood their section of the city. One of the Sisters descended the stairs leading to the first floor intending to get to the telephone to call for help but could not enter as the entire first floor was fast filling with water. The Sisters quickly dressed and knelt in a group earnestly imploring God for help to save them. Occasionally they took trips to the top of the stairs to see how far the water was progressing. To their dismay they could see it rising, step by step. As they found themselves trapped they began to prepare for death, death by drowning. Several anxious hours were spent thus, praying and imploring God’s help and that of the Blessed Mother, it being the feast day of the Annunciation.
As they continued their prayers they could hear the furniture on the first floor bang against the walls and ceiling below them. They were very much concerned about the Blessed Sacrament in repose in their chapel on the first floor. They knew their elderly pastor Father Philip Style would not have been able to get into the building.
About 5 a.m., just as a faint glimmer of light began to appear in the Eastern sky they heard a loud knock on one of their windows. As they rushed there they beheld a crew of men with several row boats ready to rescue them. With the help of these men, which the Sisters later called their guardian angels, the Sisters were helped into the row boats by crawling through a second story window. The water was so high at this time that they rowed over tree tops, wires and many other things in their way to a higher location. Upon reaching dry land the Sisters knelt down and thanked the Almighty God and the Blessed Mother for their safety. Some parishioners were waiting to escort them to their homes and were welcomed by all who took them in. These people have passed to their eternal reward now and may God bless them for their charity.
After several days the water had receded as is usually the case in a flood. The Sisters together with a group of friends entered their desolate home having to plod through inches of mud. Their first concern was the Blessed Sacrament., but their good pastor had been there and had taken our God to the Church. It was found that when Father Style opened the tabernacle not a drop of water had entered the wooden frame. The silk lining was intact and the ciborium untouched. This was declared a miracle.
All began the clean-up job, gas heaters were installed in every room to try to dry out the wet plaster and remove the dampness. The Sisters lived in this house for several years but always conscious of the damp musty smell. Later the house was abandoned and a different building was purchased for the Sisters which served the purpose until 1948.
This is the story of a few terrifying hours experienced by some of our Sisters.
Addendum: Another Sign of Heavenly Intervention
One of the men who rescued the Sisters would later become the father of our Sisters Martin and Miriam Genevieve Flavin. The fact that this particular 17 year old and 2 of his classmates were part of this emergency mission appears to be another clear indication of divine intervention in our Franciscan Community. Sister Martin recalls her Dad’s own vivid recounting of the story to her as a child and the strong impression it left on her.