Rising From the Rubble
After hurricane, Catholics responded early, stayed long
BY CARLOS BRICEÑO
August 27-September 2, 2006 Issue | Posted 8/28/06 at 9:00 AM
“And I told her that God loved her and that he loved her infinitely more than I did,” he recalled. “I told her that he would come and would hold her hand and that he would take her home. And I said to Edna, ‘If you don’t mind, I’m going to bless you.’ And I reached up and made the Sign of the Cross on her forehead.”
And then, as Kelly got up to pray over the next senior, Edna, whom he thought was comatose, tried to touch him with her hands. He pushed her hands down so she could save her energy, and then she pushed away the blanket and reached up with her hand and moved her fingers across his forehead in an effort to bless him in return. But she did not have enough energy, he said, so all she ended up doing was hitting his forehead with her fingers three times.
“That was a grace-filled moment,”
Kelly said. “And obviously in Edna’s face was the face of God. But it was also
God telling me that I will bless you, and I will bless
“Look, we in our faith know that there are no resurrections without Good Fridays. That there are no Easters without the cross,” he said. “Our faith calls us to believe in a loving and merciful God who will never ever abandon us.”
The story of the
The statistics bear out the kind
of destruction the
— In greater
— More than 5,000 volunteers from
across the country have helped out in the
— About 500,000 people have received some type of service or care from Catholic Charities; during a normal year, that number is usually around 125,000.
— In the Diocese of Biloxi, 428 of 433 Church-owned structures were destroyed or severely damaged, with more than $70 million in damages sustained, while the Archdiocese of New Orleans is dealing with $120 million in uninsured property loss.
‘A Renewed Church’
Several Church officials pointed out that although the damage, stress, death and loss of property have been great, grace is paving the way for new opportunities.
Archbishop Alfred Hughes of
And he cited the help his
archdiocese has gotten from his brother bishops and from generous people who
have donated or volunteered. In fact, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
approved another national hurricane collection campaign Aug. 26-27 to help
“I think we have an opportunity to
be a renewed Church and a new
He cited as an example the
Vietnamese community as a sign of what can happen when the Church works
together. He said the Vietnamese people, most of whom
arrived after the fall of Saigon in 1975, are not part of the political
So they organized, he said. They
set up an evacuation shelter in
“My hat is off to that kind of example of what it means to be Church, what it means to be a community of faith and what it means to be a community together,” said Archbishop Hughes.
Father William Maestri,
superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said that the archdiocese has
learned that being proactive and results-oriented has replaced old ways of
thinking. He gave the example of
“The transitional school was co-ed,” he said. “That means the school had to change bathroom facilities. We never had one single incident. Not one fight. Not one [instance of] sexually inappropriate language and conduct. No parent, no student complained from being moved from the morning to the afternoon.”
No one was turned away on account of not being able to pay tuition, he added.
“I think that the clear evidence
Many officials cited the impact of
the volunteers who have streamed in to help people in the
“It still feels like a ghost town,” he said.
What impressed him the most during his visits to help out was the faith of the people. “They haven’t had their faith shaken,” he said. “They have more of a faith.”
But even when you have faith, times are still difficult. The sense of loss is acute.
“I think the people of
Andry has become homeless herself since the hurricane hit. She has lived at seven locations — including a one-bedroom apartment with nine other people — and now she, her husband and their dog live in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer parked on her brother’s property in Central City.
“A trailer isn’t so bad after you live with so many people, you know,” she said. “We thank God for the trailer.”
Carlos Briceño is based in
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