Our Mother of Mercy Parish

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

January 3, 2006


            It’s not easy to start over after a disaster. It is even harder to start over when you are 84 years old. But Father Bartholomew Enslow, SSJ, is giving it everything he’s got.

            Fr. Enslow is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Pass Christian, MS. It is a historic African American parish of about 250 families in a little town right on the Mississippi Gulf coast about 65 miles east of New Orleans.

            Pass Christian was right at the epicenter of Hurricane Katrina. The eye of the storm passed just to the west of the town. The entire town was destroyed.

            Every single home in the parish was totally destroyed or heavily damaged. Many of them were just swept away by a 35 foot high storm surge that hit the town, leaving only a clean concrete slab.

            The parish buildings themselves were all ruined.  

            The rectory, where Fr. Enslow lived, floated off its foundation and landed on nearby railroad tracks, a complete ruin.

            The church was flooded right up to the choir loft. The convent and school filled to the ceiling of the first floor. Everything was lost.

            In the days after the hurricane the whole neighborhood around the parish looked like the photos of bombed out Dresden or Tokyo in World War II. Nothing was left standing. Nothing was recognizable. Debris is still everywhere.

            Most of the people in the parish are now homeless. This winter they are living in camper trailers provided by FEMA or in tent villages. Fr. Enslow lives right there with them in a little camper trailer.

            But, despite the devastation, Fr. Enslow and his people are beginning again.

            Even though my parish is more than 1,000 miles away in Maryland, we are part of their “resurrection.”

            In the months since the Hurricanes hit the Gulf coast, my little parish has raised more than $120,000 for hurricane relief.

            Everybody in my parish has been involved. Even our Scouts ran a spaghetti dinner that raised a record $2,000.

            Some of our money has gone to big organizations. But most of our aid has been distributed directly to people in need through the Josephite fathers and brothers who work with African American parishes. They were uniquely positioned to know who needs help and how to get it to them. Fr. Enslow is one of the Josephites.

            Pass Christian will be the biggest effort for my parish. It goes way beyond the financial. It involves our two parishes, in Maryland and Mississippi, coming together spiritually, materially and personally.  

            We will be making several trips to Pass Christian.

            In December, I went to Mississippi with three laymen. We met with parishioners from Mother of Mercy. We devised a comeback strategy.

            In the coming months we will go back with parishioners who have various skills: roofers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters. Together with Our Mother of Mercy parish, we will put our money, prayers, and sweat into rebuilding.

            Even the people in Maryland who cannot go to Mississippi are involved. They are forming committees to gather up everything a parish needs, right down to the altar linens, vestments, Bibles, hymn books and prayer books.

            It is a great work. It is a necessary work.

            When Our Mother of Mercy parish can again gather for mass in their own home, it will be a great day, not just for the people in Mississippi, but for my parish a thousand miles away.  

            St. Paul thought that the various churches should help each other out in time of need. He praised the church in northern Greece for coming to the aid of the needy church of Jerusalem. I think St. Paul would be proud of both parishes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I know I certainly am.