Hurricane Katrina

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

September 14, 2005


            Katrina. There has been just about nothing else on our minds this past couple of weeks.

            Other important things have been taking place. The Iraq war continues its horrible way. The crisis in Darfur in the Sudan continues. The appointment of a new chief justice is unfolding. But it is Katrina that has commanded our attention.

            None of us could believe the devastation we witnessed. The horrific scenes from the Superdome and the Convention Center in New Orleans did not seem like they could be in America. How could a nation as rich and advanced as the United States, be so utterly incapable of helping people in one of our largest cities?

            Like nearly every other church in America, my parish was moved to do something. Just like the days following the Tsunami in Pacific, people wanted to send prayers, money and support to the victims.

            The Sunday after the hurricane hit was Labor Day. It was the day of our parish picnic. It was a beautiful clear day in Maryland. We took up a collection to aid the victims. We received $24,000. Over the next week more money came in.

            After September 11, 2001, I was a little skeptical about giving money to large organizations. I was not sure that it would get to the people in need quickly enough.

            The day after our collection I heard an interview on NPR with a priest in Louisiana, Fr. Richard Wagner, SSJ. He was assisting some 1,000 to 1,500 evacuees in his home town of Rayne, LA. I called him up.

            He said that the people had numerous needs. Together with the chairpersons of our parish social concerns committee, we decided the best way we could help was to send Fr. Wagner some cash and a couple thousand dollars worth of “gift cards” for Wal-mart, the closest big box store. That way he could give out $25 cards to people in need and they could go to store and buy what little items they needed.

            Fr. Wagner also put us in touch with other priests in Baton Rouge and Eunice, LA. We sent cards to a total of four parishes.

            Two of our auxiliary bishops called to ask for help for priests they knew in Mississippi and LA. Over the next few days we got in touch with them and sent off gift cards and cash.

            Our people wanted to do more. We organized a shelter for 50 people on a stand-by basis here in Maryland. So far it has not been used, but we could house people if the need arises.

            In the spring, when we won’t be in the way, we will send a work crew to the affected areas to help in the rebuilding. Maybe then our attention will be even more needed.

            Our neighboring parish, itself hit by a hurricane last year, sent a whole truck load of clothing and supplies to the Gulf area.

            In general there seemed to be a desire for people to reach out to people as the Lord would not doubt want.

            Catholics should probably be even more involved in this effort than other churches. The New Orleans area and the Gulf Coast was the most Catholic region in all of the deep South.

            We need to hear more from our bishops as a group. Other things should be put on hold as we reach out to our neighbors and our brothers and sisters.

            For the moment really there is little else on our minds, except Katrina.