Prayer service shines light on homeless in New Orleans
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord,” sang several hundred people who participated in the Interfaith Prayer Service for the Homeless of New Orleans Dec. 14 at St. Joseph Church on Tulane Avenue. The pleas of religious leaders citywide were unified in their recommitment of support for those living on the streets of New Orleans.
“We are one in faith. We are one family, one community in faith,” New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said, in hopes that their prayers that day would result into prolonged action to help the homeless.
The value of every human life was acknowledged, and Rev. Jerry Bass of Parkview Baptist Church in Metairie quoted the Old and New Testaments about how the poor should not be neglected, and that “faith without works is dead. When faith is real it expresses itself in good deeds.
“We are here today (to know) that God loves and has his eyes on the poor and homeless,” Rev. Bass said.
He compared each person to the light of candles that are affected by the winds of affliction. Sometimes the candles are extinguished and a person finds himself being poor, but “as long as that candle is lit, it deserves our attention.” He recounted how God sent his very best to the world in his son and was willing to sacrifice himself, and he sees every individual as having worth and dignity.
“We can do no less,” he said.
In a solemn observance, candles were lit as the names of the homeless who have died on the streets of New Orleans in 2014 were recited.
Sharing her personal witness
Then, Laura Susan Coogle gave an emotional testimony of how Hurricane Katrina caused her to lose her home, two businesses and become homeless. She credited Unity of Greater New Orleans, whom she called “my angels” for helping her turn her life around and have “a new outlook in life filled with hope.”
She said the homeless are given a chance because of organizations like Unity, and the homeless “need to know they are not forgotten and that there are people who care.”
Coogle said her faith in God remained strong, even when she was homeless. “God made me aware of his presence and his deep concern,” she said. She has reconnected with her Episcopal roots at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church near her new home.
Archbishop Aymond thanked Coogle for her powerful words and the witness of faith she shared as the face of a loving God. He implored everyone to share their resources with those less fortunate. He urged participants to take the spirit of the candles lit in memorial to the homeless “and go out and make a difference in the world.”
Such events as the prayer service remind all faiths “to be unified in our concern for the poor and homeless,” Archbishop Aymond said. “And the witness we heard from Susan Coogle can only touch our hearts and make us put our prayer into action.”
The event was sponsored by the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Ecumenical and Interreligious Office, Office of Worship, Office of Pastoral Services, Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center, the Ignatian Spirituality Project, the Harry Tompson Center at St. Joseph Church and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.