Postville a year later; through eyes of faith - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Postville a year later; through eyes of faith

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POSTVILLE (KWWL) -- It's been one year since the largest immigration raid in US history - as ICE officials raided Agriprocessors in Postville, arresting 400 workers.

It's a raid that changed Postville forever. The change through the eyes of St. Bridget's Catholic Church, what became the center for humanitarian efforts, shows it's impact.

Eleven years ago Father Paul Ouderkirk came to St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville.

"The families were coming, there was work, the kids liked the schools here. They were bringing their families up, so we actually had a parish directory. We were doing baptisms everything," said Ouderkirk.

He says the parish was growing and so was the need for a spanish mass - which he added on Saturday evenings. St. Bridget's was becoming a center of faith for many people in Postville.

May 12th - 2008 - changed faith in Postville forever.

"I was shocked when i came into town, I couldn't believe what I saw. This house was full of people, wall to wall people, the church, the hall, were overrun with people," said Ouderkirk.

The raid shook the town - the inside of the church was transformed into a shelter.

"It was like being sucked into a black hole in space because from that time on, there's never been a day where we can sit and not have much to do, constant work, ministering to the needs of the families," said Ouderkirk.

Months after the raid - the dynamic of a once thriving parish was changing.

"First thing was that the numbers dropped way off and one of the main reasons of that was their fear of being gathered like that," said Ouderkirk.

A year later - Father Paul says the effects of the raid are felt everywhere. Empty houses for sales, businesses closed, the population decreasing. Still he says with spring and summer - comes a new sense of faith.

"There's a new encouragement, a new hope and that's good and that encourages me," said Ouderkirk.

Encouragement that can help keep the faith - in a town that's already lost so much.

Father Paul says he's already seeing more parishioners return to church. Now the the weather is getting nice and people are starting to feel confident about the future. He hopes someday the parish will thrive again.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires
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