Monday, September 25, 2006

The "Misery Tour"

You might remember the big party that took place down in New Orleans some weeks back.

Well, as it was the first gathering of the US hierarchy in the Crescent City since Hurricane Katrina hit, many of the bishops in attendance had the eye-opening experience of witnessing not just the celebrations, but also of the continued peril of the city in the storm's wake.

CNS reports:
Although Archbishop Pietro Sambi said he was aware of New Orleans' plight when he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to be papal nuncio to the United States in early 2006, it was not until he took what is locally called a "misery tour" Sept. 14 that he realized the extent of the damage.

"You cannot measure the extent of it until you come on the spot," he said near the end of a tour that took a dozen bishops through some of the worst damage wreaked by Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29, 2005, and the subsequent flooding caused by the failure of the levees....

Sixteen bishops who had not been to New Orleans since Katrina took tours that were offered on Sept. 13 and 14, Archbishop Hughes said.

Archbishop Sambi said it was only when he was on the tour that he could "measure and see the extent of the damage." He was also struck by the "quantity of suffering, for persons, for houses, for the city."...

When he first visited his native city in October, Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora said, "I couldn't even talk. I couldn't believe the utter destruction."

Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin, Texas, also a New Orleans native, has a sister who still lives in the city, and he said she was lucky that her house took in only a few inches of water. But for himself, he said, seeing the suffering and disjointedness of families was hard, and he called the disruption "extraordinary."...

On a July visit to the city, Archbishop Favalora said he crisscrossed one area and was dismayed by the pattern of recovery. "Every now and then you would see a house back or being brought back, but overall there was just no life," he said.

"It has just taken so long," Bishop Aymond said. "It points up the ineffectiveness of government -- on the city, state and federal levels -- in bringing the city back."
In Louisiana, Mississippi, and in the many places where the hurricane's survivors have ended up, there are more people than you'd think still assisting daily in the relief and humanitarian efforts. We'd do well to keep them, and the many, many displaced, ever-closer in our thoughts and prayers.