WASHINGTON (September 13, 2005)— Priests around the United States are volunteering to help in hurricane stricken areas to address pastoral needs. Dioceses also are offering liturgical items such as chalices and processional crosses to replace those destroyed by damage from Hurricane Katrina.
Offers of assistance were being coordinated by the U.S. bishops' Office for Priestly Life and Ministry in Washington, where staff said offers of help have been coming in since shortly after the disastrous storm hit the Gulf Coast.
In the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, for example, Bishop William Skylstad said he could assign one priest to work for four to six week to work in the stricken region. The Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, said it could assign two priests to work outside the diocese and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said it could assign up to 12 priests. The Diocese of Orange, California, already has been in contact with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, particularly to work with the Vietnamese community there.
Priests in dioceses to which thousands of people have been evacuated, such as Salt Lake City and Phoenix, also have been released from regular assignment to help displaced people. The Phoenix Diocese, for example, has set up four-hour shifts of priests to help evacuees in the Phoenix Coliseum.
Dioceses also are offering housing the displaced priests both in rectories and retirement centers. The Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, For example, said it can give housing to up to 20 priests at its retirement villa. The Diocese of San Jose, California, can accept 12 priests in its retirement facility for well elderly.
Diocesan officials also have put out a call to parishes to collect everything from clergy shirts for displaced priests to chalices, crosses and vestments to replace those lost in the hurricane damage.