OMAHA, Neb. — As devastating floodwaters continue to rise in parts of the Midwest, Catholics are working to raise funds for both short-term aid and long-term rebuilding efforts.
“Please join Archbishop [George] Lucas in praying for all those displaced or otherwise affected by the ongoing flooding,” said the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.
A special collection in Omaha this weekend will help fund recovery efforts. Parishes have been asked to evaluate needs in their communities and request funds for both immediate recovery needs and long-term rebuilding.
“Grants may be distributed to purchase water, food, shelter, cleaning supplies, tools, building materials and tuition assistance for displaced employees,” said archdiocesan spokesman Deacon Tim McNeil said.
He added that funds can go not only to the immediate needs of parishes, but to help with broader community assistance.
Nebraska has been among the hardest-hit states by severe flooding in recent days, although several other Midwestern states have also been affected as a “bomb cyclone” tore through the region last week, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain. The floods that have resulted have washed out roads, destroyed homes and burst dams, compounding the damage throughout the area.
The majority of counties in Nebraska are currently under a state of emergency, as are nearly half of the counties in Iowa.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said the storm has already caused “the most extensive damage our state has ever experienced.” Repairing damaged infrastructure could take months, and agricultural losses in ranching and growing crops could reach nearly $1 billion.
As residents scramble to evacuate, watching their livelihoods wash away in front of their eyes, their neighbors are doing what they can to offer support.
Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska is currently holding a bottled-water drive to help students at Peru State College, who have been displaced for several days and are facing contaminated water for the foreseeable future.
The organization is also accepting donations to aid those who are suffering from the flooding.
“It is at times like these that we are all called to help our friends, relatives and neighbors who are suffering,” Catholic Social Services said in a statement. “Please help us help those who have lost so much.”
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Elkhorn, Nebraska, is teaming up with Bethany Lutheran, Brookside, Peace Presbyterian and COPE to help with long-term rebuilding support for flood victims.
Proceeds from the March 15 Lenten Fish Fry at St. Patrick’s were donated to flood-relief efforts.
Meanwhile, northwestern counties in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, are in the path of the floodwaters.
“The towns are preparing,” said Kevin Murphy, executive director of marketing and communications for Catholic Charities in the diocese.
He told CNA that the major highway in the area has been closed, as the Missouri River is expected to reach near-record flooding levels.
Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph could also be feeling the effects of the flooding in a very direct way: The organization's satellite office in Buchanan County sits just about 5,000 feet from the river.
“We are monitoring the situation closely,” Murphy said.
Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered his prayers as the floods continue, while also calling Catholics to participate in relief efforts.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the damage caused by the flooding throughout the Midwest these past few days,” he said in a March 19 statement.
The bishop prayed “that those affected by the floods will find the strength to rebuild.”
“We trust that the Lord will console them in their suffering,” he said. “Let us answer the Lord’s call to love one another and generously support our neighbors in this time of need.”
He noted that Catholic Charities USA is collecting funds to help flood victims throughout the entire region.