Abp. Aymond prays for Isaac victims
On the “eerie” seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Archbishop Gregory Aymond offered prayers Aug. 29 for people in the Archdiocese of New Orleans impacted by slow-moving Hurricane Isaac, which dumped more than 15 inches of rain on southeast Louisiana and caused widespread flooding but spared the fortified city itself from major damage.
In a conference call with the leadership team of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans – called to evaluate the initial impact of Isaac – Archbishop Aymond acknowledged the suffering of thousands of people in south Louisiana from flooding.
“We consciously place ourselves in God’s presence and ask him to give us his protection,” Archbishop Aymond said, opening the leadership meeting with a prayer. “God has always promised to protect us in challenging times, and we ask that God does that now, especially with those who are struggling. Bless us and help us reach those in need.”
Seven years to the day – on Aug. 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans by blowing holes in the city’s under-engineered levee system, filling more than 80 percent of the city with water.
This time, the more than $10 billion in high-tech hurricane defenses and massive pumps installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of Katrina kept New Orleans mostly unscathed. But surrounding areas, particularly Plaquemines, St. Bernard and lower Jefferson civil parishes to the south and LaPlace to the northwest, sustained massive flooding from the creeping storm, which took 36 hours to clear.
On Aug. 30, areas of St. Tammany civil parish north of New Orleans reported rising water.
Although Archbishop Aymond could not confirm immediate damages to archdiocesan property, he feared that Assumption of Our Lady Mission in Braithwaite, La., south of New Orleans, sustained heavy flooding. Archbishop Aymond visited first responders in the affected in the afternoon of Aug. 30.
Father Joseph M. Tran, pastor of St. Thomas Parish in Pointe a la Hache and Assumption Mission in Braithwaite, said the small Braithwaite church, spiritual home to about 100 families, was on high ground and had never flooded before. He received reports of 6 to 7 feet of flooding from parishioners who are first responders in Plaquemines Parish.
“That really surprised me,” said Father Tran, who was on his way back to Louisiana after having evacuated to Birmingham, Ala. “Assumption was never flooded, not for (hurricanes) Betsy, Camille or Katrina.”
Former New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who was archbishop of New Orleans during Katrina in 2005, rode out Isaac at Notre Dame Seminary in Mid-City on South Carrollton Avenue. He said the timing of Isaac – the exact seventh anniversary of Katrina – was “rather eerie.”
“We have to be grateful that it was only a Category 1,” Archbishop Hughes said. “The pumps seem to be working, although we’ve had some flash flooding. But there’s no serious flooding (in the city) that I’m aware of.”
The archdiocese also received reports of flooding at Ascension of Our Lord Church in LaPlace, St. Anthony rectory in Lafitte, St. Patrick Church and rectory in Port Sulphur, Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mandeville and St. Anselm Church in Madisonville.
Catholic Charities moved 22 family members who were residing at a homeless family shelter program at Hope Haven in Marrero to a nearby hotel after leaks to the residence made it unsafe for them to remain there, said Martin Gutierrez, vice president of Catholic Charities.
Another program, Padua Pediatrics for children and teens with severe developmental difficulties, had only emergency power, but not enough to power the air conditioning.
“We have some industrial-sized fans to circulate the air,” said Samantha Pichon, a Catholic Charities vice president.
Schools in the archdiocese were expected to remain closed until Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day.
The archdiocese was making plans to get direct financial assistance to those most impacted by the storm. It set up a donations page for the CCANO Emergency Assistance Fund at www.ccano.org.