Flood of Grace

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

1/25/2000

 

            The devastation has been partly cleaned up, so it isn't immediately obvious.  But when you drive down the streets in some towns of eastern North Carolina, you can see red "X"s on dozens of houses, indicating that they are condemned.   In one town, Princeville, every building has an "X".

 The flooding that followed Hurricane Floyd last fall was the worst disaster in North Carolina history.  Thousand of homes were totally destroyed and many thousands more seriously damaged.

            Our parish social concerns committee organized a flood relief trip from Maryland to North Carolina over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  With the assistance of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Raleigh we were put in contact with folks in Windsor, a town that was flooded not once, but twice.

            As so often happens with volunteer efforts, we got back much more than we gave.

            There were 25 in our group, about evenly divided between men and women, with one child.

            We brought our tool kits, pick up trucks and blister cream.  Not very skilled workers, we discovered that what was needed was willingness.  In North Carolina we met people from other churches.  There were volunteers from every denomination, but we were proud that Catholic churches were a big part of the mix.

            We worked on four houses.  Tearing up soaked sub-flooring.  Putting joint compound on dry wall.  Laying new flooring.  Hanging insulation.

            The owners of the homes came by.  They were all elderly people who seemed to count themselves lucky to have saved their lives.  None of them were rich. Several of them were quite sick.  They were so grateful. 

            The home owners made us soup.  They worked along with us. 

            It looked like work, but it was actually a form of prayer.  There is something spiritual that happens when people go off to do something in the name of Jesus.  We are drawn together in some golden cords of grace.

            Our days began and ended with prayer in the lobby of the Comfort Inn. 

            We had mass in the back room of a Chinese restaurant.

            We talked, prayed, ate and sang together.

            At the end of the weekend, 25 parishioners who hardly knew one another when we pulled out of the parking lot were fast friends when we returned.  We had done something together.  We had been missionaries for Christ.

            Our parish is developing a tradition of these working retreats.

            The monks say that prayer come is two forms, word and work, ora et labora.

            For years our parish has had a tradition of the ora, type retreat.  Lots of talking and thinking.

            But we have now discovered the blessings that from labora, working retreats.

            There is something for everyone to do.  There is a sense of really making a difference in people's lives.  We have the satisfaction of leaving something better than we found it.  There is also the sense that we are fulfilling the requirement of the Lord to meet the needs of others.

            It isn't just the work though.  It is the work combined with prayer, combined with time.  For this we have to go somewhere.

            When we do these projects at home we accomplish important things for our community.  (Our parish will be refurbishing two houses for homeless families next month.)  But we don't have the bonding that comes which comes from spending time with each other in a strange place.

            Disasters are all bad.  In North Carolina we got to meet some nice folks and do some useful work.  We also got to know each other and the Lord a little better.  As

one of our working retreatants said, "Wasn't good of God to let this flood bring all these people together."