Reaching Out to Assist Katrina Victims

Ever since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Shore, causing widespread destruction and unimaginable upheaval to hundreds of thousands in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, our hearts have been deeply moved with compassion and the desire to help in every way possible. Surely, each day, in prayer, we lift up to the God of mercy both those who have lost their lives and those who are facing a daunting and uncertain future.

Realizing the enormity of suffering in the hurricane's wake, we wish to offer financial assistance. So, on the weekend of September 17-18, each parish will take up a second collection for the victims of this horrendous natural disaster. The funds taken up in this collection will go to Catholic Charities USA relief efforts. We chose that date in order to give people adequate notice of this collection, realizing as well that a number of families would be away on the Labor Day weekend. However, a number of parishioners were already prepared, so a number of our parishes actually began this past weekend to receive donations for the hurricane victims.

Moreover, because so many people are now displaced, I have asked Seyoum Berhe, director of our Office of Resettlement, to organize our diocesan effort to bring victims of this disaster into our area and to meet their needs once they arrive in our communities. Stephen Luteran, director of our Diocesan Catholic Charities Office, Dr. Timothy McNiff, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Mark Herrmann, our newly appointed diocesan chancellor, will collaborate with Berhe in this vital work of solidarity and support.

To assist them, I have asked each pastor to take stock of the resources available at the parish level in terms of transportation, shelter, volunteer services and storage space. Once this information is received and synthesized, we will better know how we can respond tangibly and effectively to the victims who will come here.

Berhe, McNiff and Herrmann will be coordinating with Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, who is presently residing in Baton Rouge, the officials of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and of the other dioceses in the Gulf Coast region, as well as with state and national officials, to determine when and how we could best begin to bring people from that region to our diocese, and what other types of assistance may be most needed.

During my six and half years as your bishop, I have been truly impressed by the overwhelming generosity of your response to people in need. In the face of this recent tragedy, I know that all of us will respond generously, even sacrificially, to assist our brothers and sisters who are experiencing suffering that will not easily or quickly go away. Let us reach out to them, so that they may know in a new way the love of Christ and of His Church whose members we are.

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