We can help flood victims with our prayers and pockets

It seems as though meteorologists are always talking about the “50-year flood” or the “100-year flood,” but south Louisiana seems to get pounded by water more frequently than that. Were you surprised by the devastation of the recent flooding in the dioceses of Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles?

I was totally surprised, as I was surprised in March when we had major flooding on the northshore. The two floods were similar in that people lost their lives and many homes and possessions were taken, but the difference with this most recent flooding has been the devastating scale of it all. Whole cities and most of Livingston civil parish were inundated, and in some of those areas, there really is nothing left. It’s going to take days and maybe even weeks to fully assess the extent of the damage. The dioceses of Lafayette and Lake Charles are also assessing the extent of damage and the needs. I’ve spoken several times with Bishop Muench in Baton Rouge and asked how we could help. He was very honest in telling me, “I don’t know yet.” He promised to get back to me. We can’t get our minds around the scope of this natural disaster. We need to save lives first and then begin the recovery. Many people can’t even get back into their homes to assess the damage because of the water levels. As we know from Katrina, any time there is 2 or 3 feet of water in a house, it’s a disaster. We just don’t have any way of telling how much damage there really is.
What are you asking Catholics in the Archdiocese of New Orleans to do in the meantime?
First of all, everyone can pray for the victims of the flooding, that God will give them hope and perseverance. Second, I am asking people to make direct financial contributions to the Archdiocese of New Orleans (7887 Walmsley Ave., New Orleans, LA 70125), which we will send directly to the local bishops who have been most affected. I like the idea of raising the money and then sending it to the dioceses directly because they know best how to allocate the funds for their people’s recovery. I’ve also written a letter to the bishops of the dioceses of Houma-Thibodaux, Alexandria and Shreveport as a reminder to let their people know of the great need and to take up a collection. We’ve already sent a monetary gift to the Diocese of Baton Rouge. I know there are many people in our archdiocese who want to give to this cause.
Why do you like to give the funds directly to the bishop?
That’s because he can use the money as he sees fit. He knows what his diocese’s most pressing needs are. Maybe it’s a church that really needs the money because it is helping people in the area. Sending the funds this way gives the local bishop the opportunity to make those decisions.
Is our local Catholic Charities responding?
Absolutely. We are partnering with Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge, which has a smaller staff, and we’re trying to fill in the gaps. We are releasing a number of our case workers and other staff members to work wherever Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge needs them the most. Last week we had several counselors and case managers at a major shelter in Hammond. Second Harvest Food Bank has been making drops of emergency supplies of water, snacks and nonperishable food items to areas where Baton Rouge needs them the most. We’re also helping people fill out forms for governmental assistance. We need to help people with counseling because this is a time of trauma and transition. We’re also hoping that Catholic Charities USA will send staff members and also make a financial gift.
People here who lived through Katrina certainly know what the flood victims are going through.
Yes. We are motivated in our response because this is the Christ-like thing to do. Secondly, this is a way of showing our gratitude for all that the people of Baton Rouge did in reaching out to us during a very difficult time. I’m asking everyone in this archdiocese to consider extending their support to the people of God in our sister dioceses. Some of our church parishes may choose to take up a separate collection, but everyone has a chance to give. We will distribute the money where it is most needed. Also, several parishes such as St. Catherine of Siena, Mary Queen of Peace, Christ the King, St. Edward the Confessor and St. Gertrude have already rallied to help flood victims. St. Peter School in Covington and Archbishop Chapelle High School have twinned with schools in the Baton Rouge area. That’s a wonderful way of showing God’s love to others.

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