We are Resurrection people; we must move forward
We are both a Good Friday and a Resurrection people!
That is how I often think of my/our Katrina experience. One of the important things I learned is that my experience is just a tiny part of a disaster of such magnitude that it is difficult to comprehend. Yet a common denominator is the pain, anguish and unbelievable suffering of the men, women and children I call the Good Friday people.
As Good Friday people, we may have lost our loved ones; if we evacuated, we may have lost our homes and all of our possessions. As an archdiocese, we evacuated homeless moms and children and more than 300 nursing home residents. Catholic Charities relocated to Baton Rouge and ministered to those New Orleanians who sought help through the Catholic Charities office there. Again, that was just a tiny example of what we as church did to help our suffering brothers and sisters.
I never want to forget the images associated with Katrina, the breaking of the levees. I never want to forget the pain families felt as they were separated from their loved ones, their families. I never want to forget the 95-year-old mother who, every day, asked the authorities if they had found her two missing sons. I never want to forget the first responders who were on the front lines every day and every night, exhausted but still caring.
I never want to forget the generosity of those volunteers who came to New Orleans to help us rebuild. Volunteers on an international, national and local level were there for us offering assistance in every way possible. Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and churches across the country reached out to the Good Friday people. Poor women in a developing country sent a donation.
I cannot begin to name all the groups that came to our assistance, but I do want to recognize the hundreds of college kids who chose to come to New Orleans to help rebuild. Many college groups continue to come on their spring breaks. More than just cleaning out buildings and picking up trash, they spent time each day reflecting on what they saw, what they did and why they did it. They truly recognized that they were witnessing to the love of Jesus and bringing that love to people who, perhaps, lost everything. They were truly humbled by the gratitude of the people they reached out to. One young man reflected that he came to New Orleans to do for others, and he was leaving New Orleans realizing what the Good Friday people did for him. They accepted him, a stranger, into their hearts; they were grateful and expressed their gratitude in words, in cooking a pot of red beans and rice, and stirring up some jambalaya. In his words, “I am humbled.”
Over the years I have asked myself what gave us as individuals, as families, as neighbors, as a city the strength and de- termination to move forward even as we were surrounded by devastation and enveloped in floodwaters. What made us so resilient? What gave us the courage?
I believe it was, and is, our faith. Jesus was, and is, with us. His name was always on the lips of those who lost everything. We were dependent upon our God and we knew we would resurrect!
Our Catholic Church, and other congregations as well, reached out to the Good Friday people. Suffering people turned to their church for assistance, for strength, for courage. Congregations came together and prayed together. We were united in our recovery as one.
As a Resurrection people, we continue to move forward. Signs of progress and rebuilding are all around us. Yet, many of our people live in neighborhoods that are still blighted, many of our brothers and sisters are still Good Friday people who lack necessities of life.
Our recovery is not complete until every neighborhood has been restored, every child is receiving a quality education, every person has access to health care and every person is able to find employment.
As a Resurrection people, we may be moving forward, but we remain a struggling community.
Daughter of Charity Sister Anthony Barczykowski is the former director of community services for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.