Woodstock Explosion Damages Church, School, Parish Office
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
October 12, 2023
WOODSTOCK—An explosion here the afternoon of Oct. 9 damaged St. Mary Parish, school and parish office along with 10 other structures, including one house that was completely destroyed. According to Shaw Media, no one was seriously injured but two firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting blazes resulting from the explosion.
The blast was reported to have been preceded by a gas leak that prompted a smaller evacuation earlier in the day including the St. Mary’s campus buildings. St. Mary School was closed for the observance of Columbus Day. 
A press release issued Monday from Nicor Gas said a “third party conducting work unrelated to Nicor Gas damaged a natural gas pipeline in the 200 block of Tryon Street.”  An investigation into the exact source of the explosion is underway.
St. Mary Church at the corner of Tryon Street and Lincoln Avenue was evacuated during the earlier gas leak, and people in surrounding homes were advised to shelter in place, but a wider area was evacuated after the explosion.
Prior to press time, the parish reported to The Observer that all windows in the parish center were blown out along with windows in a classroom, an art room, boys’ restroom, cafeteria and gym at the school. At the parish, storm windows over three stained glass windows were broken. 
According to St. Mary Communication Coordinator Theresa Emricson, crews called by the parish were on site Oct. 10 to clean up glass and other damage, and a structural engineer was contacted to make sure the buildings were structurally safe before students and parishioners can return. Diocesan insurance representatives were also at work assessing the damage, according to chancellor Ellen Lynch.
School was cancelled, and students moved to remote learning for the remainder of the week, and all Masses were cancelled for the clean up and would resume once the buildings were deemed safe and gas and electricity can be restored to the St. Mary campus buildings. 
School parents and parishioners should watch the school and parish Facebook pages for more updates as well as parish Flocknotes. 
In the meantime, the school asked via Facebook that everyone “Please keep the neighborhood families, all emergency workers and the school building in your prayers.” 
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