UPDATE: Latest news: Pope Francis offers prayers; national collection; and stories of aid and hope.

 

Editor's Note: On Aug. 29, the bishops announced a national collection to aid hurricane victims.

HOUSTON — The damage done by Hurricane Harvey is a cause for prayer and preparation to help the storm’s victims, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said.

“As the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, this crisis hits very close to home,” conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said Aug. 27. “In solidarity with my brother bishops in this area of the country, I call on people of faith to pray for all of those who have been impacted by this hurricane, and I ask people of goodwill to stand with the victims and their families.

“May God, the Lord of mercy and compassion, protect all who are still in danger and bring to safety those who are missing. May he care in a special way for those who were already homeless, or without support and resources, before this disaster,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal said the storm was “catastrophic and devastating,” and many dioceses have been affected.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night as a Category-4 storm. It has killed at least eight people. The Associated Press reported that 2,000 have been rescued in Houston alone. Many thousands are trapped by the water.

Although the hurricane has been downgraded to a tropical storm, the National Weather Service said the flooding is catastrophic, unprecedented and expected to continue for days. Up to 50 inches of rain could fall on some parts of Texas.

Several international airports in Texas were closed and a Houston hospital was evacuated after flooding caused power loss. Everything is basically shutdown, with roads impassable.

Massive floods came through the Houston area Sunday, chasing thousands to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelming rescuers. Federal disaster declarations indicate the storm has so far affected about 6.8 million people, according to The Associated Press. Rescue efforts continue throughout the region.

The city of Dallas has said it will turn its convention center into a shelter to host up to 5,000 evacuees.

Cardinal DiNardo said the U.S. bishops’ conference is working closely with local dioceses, Catholic Charities USA and St. Vincent de Paul societies, as well as other relief organizations. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and other aid agencies are lending a hand, including the Knights of Columbus

The bishops’ conference will share more information about how best to aid hurricane victims. 

The cardinal also prayed in thanksgiving for the first responders who have put their lives at risk.

“We include in our intentions the everyday heroes reaching out to help their neighbors in need, those who, like the Good Samaritan, cannot walk by a person in need without offering their hand in aid,” he said.

Cardinal DiNardo concluded with a general prayer: “May God bless you and your families this day and always.”

On Aug. 26, the cardinal prayed for all affected.

“Please join me and pray for all of those affected by the storm and in need of assistance during this natural disaster,” the cardinal said Aug. 26. “In addition, I ask the faithful to also keep the emergency response personnel and volunteers in your prayers. For those residing in our archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

The coastal town of Rockport, Texas, where about 5,000 residents remained during the storm, was particularly hit hard, according to CNN. Walls and roofs had collapsed on some people. Then came the flooding in the Houston metro area.

Late Saturday morning, the storm was still a Category-1 storm with sustained winds of 75 mph and a coastal storm surge of 13 feet.

Before the storm made landfall, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi voiced gratitude for police, medical personnel and other first responders working during the storms. He advised the faithful to follow the instructions of civil authorities and to “stay together, and pray.”

He recommended they should think on the many Gospel passages about water, like Christ calming troubled seas. The bishop encouraged Catholics to have “that same faith that Peter had” during the storms.

Gov. Greg Abbott has been offering direction and support to Texans throughout the crisis. He is heartened by the assistance he has witnessed.

“You’ve seen countless stories about the way our fellow Texans have come together. ... This is typical Texans helping each other,” Abbott told CBS This Morning today.

President Donald Trump has offered federal assistance and will travel to the region tomorrow.

Father David Bergeron, of the Companions of Christ, took to his kayak to explore the flooded streets around the neighborhood and try to get wine to celebrate Sunday Mass.

“I had wanted to say Mass with the few people who are stranded.”

The Quebec, Canada, native said he was praying for everyone affected.

 

Register staff added to this report,

which was updated Aug. 28 at 7:37pm Eastern.