Indiana Catholics are committed to helping victims recover from the March 2 outburst of tornadoes that killed at least 13 people in the southern part of the state.
Jane Crady, the disaster response coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, has visited several of the worst-hit areas. She said the devastation is comparable to that witnessed in the first day of Hurricane Katrina.
National Weather Service coordinator Bill Whitlock reported “extreme damage” in the area of Henryville, a town of about 3,000 people, while the local sheriff’s office described the town of Marysville, population 1,900, as “completely gone.”
Aside from the damage to Henryville, there are eight or 10 towns that were hit just as badly, Crady said in a March 5 interview with EWTN News.
“We are responding in all areas,” she said, emphasizing that Catholic Charities is committed to the recovery “for the long haul.”
“Though we do respond immediately, we are focused on short-term and long-term aid until the last family is back in their house.”
Henryville’s St. Francis Xavier Church and its community center were among the few buildings left standing in the area, making it the logical command station for response personnel.
Greg Otolski, the archdiocese’s director of communications, said that the church building suffered roof damage but no structural damage. It held Mass on Sunday, despite the disaster.
The parish was holding its Lenten fish fry when the storms hit and ended up using the food to feed disaster-response personnel, Otolski said.
He noted that many people lost their workplaces and businesses as well as their homes. He asked that others pray for these victims.
“It’s going to take quite a while for people to get back on their feet,” he said.
Many parishes in the Henryville area are already working together to do cleanup, to take in newly homeless families, and to provide necessities for victims.
“They’re already taking care of their own neighbors,” Otolski said, noting that support from those outside the disaster zone has been “pretty overwhelming.”
Crady said it’s too early for volunteers to sign up for Catholic Charities’ relief work. She estimated volunteers will be needed in at least three to four weeks, when rebuilding efforts begin.
Churches in the archdiocese have held collections at Mass for the victims. Donations to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will target those without insurance or money.
The local Catholic Charities website is www.catholiccharitiesindpls.org.