Five patients and one visitor at St. John's Regional Medical Center lost their lives in the twister, but 183 other patients were evacuated to other facilities in Missouri and Arkansas. "A number of Mercy caregivers themselves were injured," said a May 23 statement issued by the hospital. "Their selfless efforts put their patients first and resulted in a timely and orderly evacuation." The six fatalities recorded at St. John's, a health care ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, were included in the total of 117 confirmed dead by midday May 24. The number injured in the storm was 1,150. "Our first priority is to the community of Joplin and to ensure that our patients, families and co-workers are safe and receiving the best care possible. We are grateful for your support as we work together to assist the Joplin community," the hospital said. "Please know that Mercy remains committed to the Joplin community, both in the short-term and long-term," the statement said. "We are evaluating interim approaches to providing health care services, and we will be planning for the future as soon as we address more immediate needs." The hospital asked that residents who have retrieved what appear to be patient files strewn about by the tornado to hold onto them and respect the privacy of those named in the files until St. John's has a system in place to collect them. "Also critically important is the work under way to touch base with all 1,700 Mercy co-workers in Joplin. We first want to make sure they are safe, and then will be attempting to understand their losses and their needs," said Mercy president and CEO Lynn Britton in a May 23 statement. "We are also discussing the long-term implications for our Joplin co-workers and will be providing answers to the many questions they have as soon as we can." Structural engineers were set to arrive in Joplin to evaluate the hospital building, Britton said. Donations to the Joplin Tornado Relief Fund, or wherever the need is greatest, can be made online through a St. John's site: "Please keep the people of Joplin in our prayers, especially those whose lives were taken as well as those who lost loved ones," said a May 23 statement from Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. "We pray especially for the people of St. Mary's Catholic Church and school who suffered a total loss as well as St. John's Mercy Hospital which sustained major damage." "Diocesan staff have been in contact with the other Missouri Catholic Charities organizations based in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau and Kansas City dioceses and the Archdiocese of St. Louis," said a May 23 statement from the neighboring Diocese of Jefferson City. "Staff are working on an appropriate response in consultation with diocesan Bishop John R. Gaydos. "The diocese hopes to be more specific about its response very soon as new information becomes available and additional consultation occurs with other charitable entities and organizations." The church, school and rectory buildings of St. Mary Parish were all destroyed by the tornado, but the parish pastor, Father Justin Monaghan, was reported unhurt. "The pastor rode it out in the bathtub. He's fine," said Leslie Anne Eidson, editor of The Mirror, newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. "He's staying with a local parishioner right now." At Joplin's other Catholic church, St. Peter the Apostle, parish administrator Elizabeth Runkle, told Catholic News Service May 23, "St. Peter's is fine. We're OK. We didn't have any damage. Everybody's fine." St. Peter has an outreach center that they're trying to use to speed aid to victims, according to Eidson. McAuley Catholic High School, which serves the city's two parishes, escaped damage, Eidson said. It was being used as an overflow triage center. In a message posted on his Facebook page the evening of the storm, Father John Friedel, St. Peter's pastor, said: "Just got back from closing down the Catholic high school, which was opened as an overflow triage center. Our area of town was untouched, though the neighboring parish (20 blocks away) has probably lost their entire physical plant.... I know you've all seen the footage of St. John's, our Catholic hospital, which is probably also a total loss! "Please keep our community in your prayers.... There has been and will be much suffering. Such destruction and violence.... Thanks, everyone, for your calls, texts and messages of support. Going to sleep now, so we can be at it again in the morning." Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri was in Joplin and seeking donations to aid tornado victims, she added. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also was coordinating its own relief efforts in the Joplin area, according to Eidson, who said the Convoy of Hope, which has a large operation in southwestern Missouri, had already established a base in Joplin. Joplin, in southwest Missouri near the borders of Kansas and Oklahoma, sits in "Tornado Alley," so called for the frequency and ferocity of the region's twisters. "The tornado has split Joplin in two," reported Eidson. Travel in and out of the city was difficult in the wake of the tornado, she added. —CNS{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0527/tornado/{/gallery}