WASHINGTON (September 7, 2005) — Catholic Church disaster relief spans the gamut from doing laundry for people at Jackson, Mississippi, shelters to executing a Houston disaster plan created even before anyone ever heard of Hurricane Katrina.
Reports from around the nation show creative, strategic, immediate and practical help.
In the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, for example, local parishes are providing laundry services for people in shelters, lunch and dinner for displaced people in hotels so they won't have to buy meals and housing and food for power company workers.
In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, the archdiocese developed a Disaster Response Plan with its local Catholic Charities and St. Vincent DePaul Society after the 2001 tropical storm Allison wreaked destruction there. As part of the plan, 21 parishes became designated Red Cross shelters. They made building modifications and recruited parishioners for necessary training. With the training, organization and communications network implemented through the response plan the Archdiocese was better able to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Parishioners at St. John the Baptist parish in Lockport, New York, in the Diocese of Buffalo, decided to focus on the Jackson Diocese. They are collecting bottled water, non-perishable food, hygiene products, over-the-counter medicine, baby supplies and money and will send their truckloads of materials to Mississippi, September 12.
The Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, like many other dioceses nationwide, is responding to a Catholic Charities USA call through local Catholic Charities agencies to help with temporary housing, case management, and counseling for dislocated individuals and families. The Wilmington Diocese will make space available at Children's Home, in Claymont, Delaware, and Siena Hall in Wilmington, both of which facilities are now vacant.
In the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, where many displaced persons have arrived, the diocese is collecting diapers, baby wipes, water and money. St. Mary's Health System in the diocese brought in extra doctors, nurses and other staff to assist evacuees treated there. Extra chaplains also were recruited to attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of the evacuees. One man, receiving his first hot meal in days, broke down and cried.
In the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, where evacuees are in shelters, private homes, campgrounds and hotels and motels, individual parishes are providing meals and collecting items for short term stays and furniture for those who will be there long-term.
In the Diocese of Corpus Christ, Texas, where the city of Corpus Christi has taken in 1,400 evacuees, the diocese has been charged with securing needs for babies and infants. It also is securing school supplies for children being absorbed by the Catholic and public school system.
In the Archdiocese of Newark, Catholic Health and Human Services is running a blood drive and in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recruiting healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses and technicians, to volunteer for duty – for a minimum of two weeks – at one of the 40 field hospitals being established in the affected area. Trained volunteers also will also provide grief counseling in the field hospitals. The Newark Archdiocese is collecting money to support the local men and women who volunteer for service in the grief stricken area.
The Diocese of Austin, Texas, is working with an interfaith housing foundation to set up some long-term answers to housing needs. The diocese also has a group of lawyers setting up to assist evacuees with legal needs.
In the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities has set up a hotline for parishioners to register offers of housing and other volunteer assistance and for displaced families to request assistance for such helps as emergency financial aid, housing and counseling.
In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, St. Mary's Cathedral Center has been turned into a shelter for 300 displaced persons. Catholic Charities of the archdiocese also will provide case management and services for seniors and children. Evacuees are expected to stay at the center for 60 days.
The Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, has called on each parish to collect needed clothing, non-perishable food, and personal hygiene items during the week of September 5-10. Items will be delivered to designated drop-sites in the diocese and then transported to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, where church workers will distribute the items directly to the hurricane victims.
Dioceses across the United States are also providing tuition-free education in Catholic schools and raising money through collections, bake sales and other fundraiser by children and adults alike.