Ten years ago this month, those on the Gulf Coast who had experienced the wrath of Hurricane Katrina were taking stock. In the span of one day, their homes had been destroyed and all possessions were lost. Worse still, many lost loved ones. Businesses and churches were ruined, looting was rampant, and just about everything was under water. As cleanup began in the weeks after Katrina, it became evident that people not in Louisiana or Mississippi simply could not sit back and watch as those in the Deep South struggled to recover on their own from the third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. Instead, they responded. Heroic individuals traveled hundreds of miles to assist with cleanup. Church and student volunteer groups mobilized to offer labor and monetary relief.
All of us here at Our Sunday Visitor were as shocked and grief stricken as our readers. We wanted to make a difference, but the problems seem so vast. So we launched a national campaign to support two specific parishes in two different states: : Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Slidell, Louisiana, and St. Paul Parish in Pass Christian, Mississippi.
In a letter to readers in December 2005, OSV Publisher Greg Erlandson wrote: “We invite you as readers of Our Sunday Visitor to join us in assisting these two hard-hit parishes. Your tax-deductible donation will be divided evenly between the two parishes and will provide them with the means to carry out the daunting rebuilding effort. ... We hope you will partner with us in this important work.”
Quickly and generously, you responded. Throughout the next year, more than 300 readers sent in $77,388 worth of donations. It was a tremendous effort, and one that was as humbling as it was gratifying to organize.
Fast-forward 10 years, and this week’s In Focus highlights the tremendous progress made in the last decade by St. Paul — now Holy Family — and Our Lady of Lourdes. In addition to the beautiful new sanctuaries and gathering spaces that now exist for both parishes, there’s a deep gratitude among the parishioners for the outside assistance they received. It’s a remarkable example of how, bound together by faith, we live out Christ’s call to be in communion with one another in the Mystical Body of Christ.
In one particularly moving anecdote, Bragg Moore, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, was talking with his son, Matt, who at the time was a senior in high school. The family had lost its home, as had each of Moore’s four siblings. “We were leaving school [in the] afternoon, and Matt and I were riding in my little pick-up truck,” Moore recalled. “And he goes, ‘I just want to tell you, Dad, that they better come.’ I said, ‘Who is ‘they,’ Matt?’ ‘This universal Church you’re always talking about,’” Moore said. “And I said, ‘They’re coming, Matt. I promise you,’” Moore said. “And later on, they came, and they came, and they came.”
Thanks to your generosity, that “they,” in part, is you.
Catholicism in the United States has faced numerous challenges during the last 15 years. The clergy sexual abuse crisis, the declining numbers of people in the pews and increased polarization all point to a Church on the brink of crisis. What is too often lost in the shuffle are the Church’s many successes. The Katrina recovery is one of those successes — an example of the universality of the Church and an acknowledgement that good people are more than eager to do good works, if only given the opportunity.
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor