Monday, August 28, 2006

One City, Two Anniversaries

As many of you know, tomorrow (29 August) is the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in New Orleans.

A year on, the needs of the area continue -- Catholic Charities said Thursday that its "agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi are in desperate need of volunteers to clean-up or repair homes destroyed by the hurricane."
An estimated 92,000 houses in New Orleans and 200,000 houses in the metro area were severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In Biloxi, where over 65,000 homes were flood-ravaged and destroyed, people still are living in tents and trailers as they wait for aid.

Houses that need to have all of the moldy drywall and debris removed before they can be cleaned and renovated remain ravaged and unrepaired because no one is available to do the work.

"We're hurting," said Deacon John Ferguson, director of field operations for Catholic Charities in New Orleans. "We would normally be gutting 20-25 homes per week, but for the past several weeks, we have not had many volunteers. Perhaps it is because of summer vacations; perhaps it is because of the heat. But we are totally dependent on volunteers."

The rebuilding effort by Catholic Charities in New Orleans is coordinated through its volunteer program called Operation Helping Hands, which was established to mobilize volunteers from across the country to help seniors, the disabled, and those with little or no flood insurance gut homes devastated from the hurricane so the rebuilding process can begin.

Closer to home, the diocese of Camden is sending more volunteers to the Gulf Coast. And the Crescent City's archbishop, Alfred Hughes, has published his own reflections:
My own life has been dramatically changed. I never dreamed that God would be asking me at this time in my life to assume the responsibility of shepherding this good archdiocese in the face of such overwhelming destruction.

Many people have asked me why God could have allowed this to happen? Some may turn to prophetic messages relating destruction to sin. But as the Lord Jesus has revealed to us, God’s ways are far more mysterious than ours. God is a loving God who, even when he allows suffering, wants to draw greater good. St. Paul has promised us that for those who love God all things will turn unto good. I have experienced God’s grace. I have been strengthened by the extraordinary support of so many good people, both here in the archdiocese and in the country at large.
Some might remember that, when Katrina hit, one of the many New Orleaneans briefly in need of rescue was Philip Hannan, its eleventh archbishop, who was holed up in his TV studio. At 93, Hannan keeps kickin' -- and today marks his Golden Jubilee as a bishop. The photo below, from last year, shows the archbishop inspecting hurricane damage with one of his former priests, Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi.

Ordained an auxiliary bishop of Washington on this day in 1956, Hannan -- who preached JFK's funeral and performed Jackie O's burial -- was sent to New Orleans in 1965 and led the church there for 23 years.

Having maintained a tangible presence in the Catholic engagement in mass media even in his tenth decade, the last living US bishop named by Pius XII has arguably surpassed all the rest in his commitment and effectiveness... not to mention keeps more active than many active prelates. Given the medium, it's only fitting that we take this chance to express to Archbishop Hannan all thanks and congratulations on attaining this milestone, one as rare as it is joyous.

Reuters/Carlos Barria
PHOTO 2: America