December 1, 2022 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

(Left to right) Karen Wallace, Sterling Wallace, and Dcn. Mike Marsili speak on March 2, 2022 inside the Wallaces’ home, which was severely damaged when a tornado ripped through the small town in December 2021. In the three months since the storm, significant work had been done to rebuild the couple’s house. All three belong to Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, which was totaled by the tornadoes. CNS PHOTO/BOB ROLLER

‘Just because we’re on the way doesn’t mean we’re there yet’

Years of healing, recovery and rebuilding anticipated for Dawson Springs


One year later, the community still feels nervous when the sky grows dark in bad weather.

“I think we’re all a little apprehensive, especially because we get more wind now with all the trees gone,” said Karen Wallace, who with her husband, Sterling, survived the Dec. 10, 2021 tornadoes that ravaged western Kentucky and destroyed the couple’s house in Dawson Springs.

The Wallaces completed repairs on their home this past August, and Wallace said she finally has their family pictures back on the walls.

Their daughter and grandchildren, who had been renting their basement and were with them when the tornadoes blew across, have since purchased a modular home on the Wallace farm property – so they are able to remain nearby.

The home of Sterling and Karen Wallace in Dawson Springs after the Dec. 10, 2021 tornado ripped off the roof of their house, while they took shelter in the basement with family members. COURTESY OF KAREN WALLACE

Yet, “it’s been a hard year,” said Wallace. “It definitely took a toll.”

Their family usually gets together over Thanksgiving “and that’s when we celebrate Christmas,” she said. “That was winding down when the tornado hit last year.”

The Wallaces had to replace their Christmas tree, which was ruined when the roof was torn off and rains seeped in during the storms. They also had to replace their stockings and Christmas ornaments – the original ornaments having been built up over many years with family memories.

“We’ll certainly be glad once the anniversary comes and goes,” said Wallace.

The Wallaces belong to and lead the music ministry for Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, which also was destroyed in the tornadoes.

Fellow parishioners Donnie and Rhonda Mills offered the use of a metal shed on their property for Resurrection to continue celebrating Mass as a community, which the parish has gratefully done over the past year.

Sterling and Karen Wallace’s fully repaired home, which they completed in August. COURTESY OF KAREN WALLACE

“The parish is still intact and thriving,” said Wallace. “In some ways our parish is closer than it’s ever been. I am so, so grateful to the Mills because otherwise we’d have been scattered to the winds.”

Dcn. Mike Marsili, who serves Resurrection Parish as well as Holy Cross Parish in Providence and Immaculate Conception Parish in Earlington, agreed.

“I’m happy to say all our parishioners who were coming previously are still coming,” he said.

Dcn. Marsili said the remains of Resurrection Parish have been demolished. Now that the surveys have been done and the soil has been sampled, the next steps include working with the architect and presenting the design plans to the diocese.

The past year has presented its share of challenges to Dcn. Marsili personally. His brother and sister, both of whom lived out-of-state, died this year.

Even with personal losses, his vocation as a deacon remains – especially a deacon serving a tornado-impacted community: “People are still going to call; none of that goes away, life has to go on.”

Dcn. Mike Marsili of Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs, lights candles on March 2, 2022, in a shed on the property of parishioners Donnie and Rhonda Mills. On Dec. 10, 2021, a tornado ripped through the small town and destroyed the church. Since then parishioners have worshipped in a shed on the Mills’ property. CNS PHOTO/BOB ROLLER

He considers it a profound blessing that both his siblings were reconciled with the Catholic Church before passing away.

Experiencing the blessings and heartaches over the past year has reminded Dcn. Marsili that “God is never remote. That’s an impossibility. He is never far from us. He is always near.”

“This is part of what life really is,” he said. “It can be messy and sorrowful but these are things God uses to bring us closer to him in the end.”

Wallace said the tight-knit community of Dawson Springs “pulls together pretty good about lots of things, but we never expected or wanted” tornadoes to be the reason. She said their city motto is “Dawson Springs is a very special place.”

“Those who are in our homes are doing better, but there will be reminders forever,” she said, asking that people remember to pray for those impacted. “Psychologically, it’s going to be years.”

She said that “just because we’re on the way doesn’t mean we’re there yet.”

“I hope people won’t forget about us,” she said. “Even if you didn’t have damage, you were affected. And our church isn’t back yet.”

A terra cotta nativity set that was gifted to Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs by a woman in Ohio for use in Resurrection’s future church when it is rebuilt. COURTESY OF DCN. MIKE MARSILI

Originally printed in the December 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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