By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – A tree crushing a local Catholic’s car became a “thank God” moment Tuesday after a fast-moving storm left damage in its wake.
Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, of St. Peter Parish, said she had gone to close the windows of the Toyota Prius she and her husband, Scott, use for their ministry. They run the SS. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker House on Mason Street.
As she was trying to move the car that was parked under the tree, a huge limb fell. One arm of the tree-sized branch landed on the hood, another on the roof. Her head, inside the car, was between the two.
“This has become a ‘thank God’ site,” Claire Schaeffer-Duffy told The Catholic Free Press about an hour after emerging unscathed. Everybody who comes by says, “Thank God. You’re lucky.”
“Five to six inches in either direction and Claire would be dead,” her husband said yesterday.
The “thank God site” has become a place to give back to the couple, who give their lives in service to others and work to protect the environment.
“The important part of this story is that my mom is OK,” the Schaeffer-Duffy’s daughter, Grace Sliwoski, said in an internet “GoFundMe” campaign. “I think it’s a sign that God knows how much we all need her that she escaped this near-tragedy unscathed. But the car is destroyed and, unfortunately, there’s no insurance coverage for a tree falling on your car (at least, not on my parents’ plan.) This vehicle is incredibly important, not just as the only car for their household, but the only car for the SS. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker Community. This car transports bread to be sold each week at local churches which supports my parents’ work for peace and justice. It gives guests rides to the hospital, to job interviews, and to new housing and new lives. It carries South High students on my dad’s cross country team who wouldn’t be able to participate in sports if they didn’t have a coach that would pick them up.”
Mrs. Sliwoski posted a “thank you” from her father, which said it took them a year to raise money to buy the 2007 Prius for $11,000.
Yesterday morning he told The Catholic Free Press they’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the campaign.
“In less than 48 hours it’s raised $8,000,” he said, adding that they had found two comparable vehicles, either of which they could get for about $10,000.
Mrs. Schaeffer-Duffy said she didn’t remember hearing the branch fall after she got in the car to close the windows and back it out of the way in case a branch fell! Her panic was afterwards, wondering if she could get out. She called for her husband, who was closing the house windows, and he helped her get out the back door.
She said she felt like, “Thank you God; I have more life,” and expressed hope that she’ll use it well.
“I say every morning I’m thankful for my life, because I’m familiar with death,” she said.
As she talked, her husband and other men cut and moved branches. Mr. Schaeffer-Duffy said two Mormon missionaries happened by, tucked their ties in their shirts and worked hard. He expressed gratitude that the city moved the biggest parts of the branch free of charge.
“The peace work and our hospitality – they go on,” he said; they’re focusing on the nuclear disarmament vigil they’ve been planning in protest of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. It is to be held 1-2 p.m. Sunday at Elm Park.