WASHINGTON (July 11, 2006) – U.S. bishops have approved a national collection to help the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi provide recovery and rebuilding support for infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, (USCCB) announced today in a memo to the nation's bishops that the special collection will take place August 26-27.
While an original national collection established by the USCCB in the aftermath of the hurricanes has raised more than $130 million, largely for humanitarian relief, "the needs for diocesan recovery in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi are as great now as they were immediately after the storms which caused them," Bishops Skylstad said. "The first collection focused on humanitarian relief. This collection, however, gives the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Bishop of Biloxi greater discretion in meeting the Church's recovery and rebuilding needs within these two dioceses. Sixty percent of the collection will be provided to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and forty percent will be given to the Diocese of Biloxi."
In the Diocese of Biloxi, 428 of 433 church-owned structures were destroyed or severely damaged, with more than $70 million in damages sustained. The Archdiocese of New Orleans estimates $52 million in uninsured flood damage to buildings the archdiocese is attempting to currently reopen and another $70 million uninsured flood damage to buildings whose openings have been delayed.
Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, Chairman of the USCCB Hurricane Recovery Task Force, presented a report to bishops at their national spring meeting last month in Los Angeles detailing the ongoing challenges faced by dioceses in the region. "While some of the dioceses affected by Katrina and Rita are reporting significant progress in rebuilding and recovery, extraordinary needs remain throughout the region," Archbishop Fiorenza said in the report. "Donor intent has understandably concentrated on humanitarian relief, which remains critically important; however, "bricks-and- mortar" projects related to institutional burdens are placing exceptional burdens on the dioceses involved. This is becoming even more apparent now that rebuilding estimates and insurance coverages are becoming clearer."
The memo Bishop William S. Skylstad sent to bishops regarding the national collection follows.
Date: July 10, 2006
To: All Bishops
From: Bishop William S. Skylstad
Re: National Collection for Hurricane Recovery
In June at our General Assembly in Los Angeles, we heard a report from the Hurricane Recovery Task Force as well as from several of our brother bishops still reeling from the catastrophic devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It was quite clear from these conversations that the damaged infrastructure of the area remains central to the efforts of these dioceses to recover and rebuild. As you know, shortly after last year's hurricanes, I approved a national collection "for the relief of the victims of the hurricanes of this season," and I observed that "the needs will be great and long lasting." This has proven to be an understatement. The ongoing needs for diocesan recovery remain staggering and extremely urgent.
While the original national collection raised more than $130,000,000, largely for humanitarian relief, the needs for diocesan recovery in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi are as great now as they were immediately after the storms which caused them. In the Diocese of Biloxi, with only 70,000 Catholics, Bishop Rodi reports that 428 of 433 Church-owned structures were destroyed or severely damaged, with more than $70,000,000 damage sustained. While insurance will cover $35,000,000 of this damage, the diocese remains uninsured by another $35,000,000. In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Archbishop Hughes estimates $52,000,000 in uninsured flood damage on buildings they are attempting to reopen right now, and another $70,000,000 uninsured flood damage on buildings they have had to delay reopening at this time. These costs place even greater burdens on people already overwhelmed by grief, dislocation and discouragement. As Archbishop Fiorenza said in his report to the General Assembly, "They are still flat on their backs. We must help them get on their feet so that real recovery can begin."
It became clear during the June meeting that such needs demand an immediate response. Therefore, the bishops unanimously approved a second national collection for those two dioceses. The weekend designated for this special collection is August 26-27, 2006. The first collection focused on humanitarian relief. This collection, however, gives the Archbishop of New Orleans and the Bishop of Biloxi greater discretion in meeting the Church's recovery and rebuilding needs within these two dioceses. Sixty percent (60%) of the collection will be provided to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and forty percent (40%) to the Diocese of Biloxi.
Archbishop Hughes and Bishop Rodi will provide reports to the Conference on the disposition of the funds received, and I have asked Archbishop Fiorenza, as Chair of the Hurricane Recovery Task Force, to prepare a report by 1 September 2007 on the status, distribution and disposition of the funds collected.
Please send your diocese's collection as soon as possible after the collection to:
National Collection for Hurricane Recovery
P.O. Box 73141
Baltimore, MD 21273
Checks should be made payable to the "United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" and include "National Collection for Hurricane Recovery" on the check stub or memo line. A transmittal form is being prepared for your use and will be provided shortly, as well as a sample letter you may wish to send to your pastors announcing the collection. Additional materials concerning the needs of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi will be sent, in the interest of time, directly to your parishes. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact: Deacon William T. Ditewig, Ph.D., who is staff for the Hurricane Recovery Task Force, at 202-541-3038 or , or Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, Chair of the Hurricane Recovery Task Force, at 713-681-4268.
One of our brothers has captured the situation poignantly when he writes,
Critical to the ongoing recovery effort is to keep the journey of the struggling people of this great region before the minds and hearts of the Catholic faithful. Their homes, their industry, and their hearts are broken. . . . [Many displaced persons] have moved an average of 3.5 times, some as many as nine times; each time trying to re-establish their family and livelihood. All indications are also that the poorest of the poor will not be able to participate in the "road to recovery." We look forward to ongoing support from the USCCB in this regard [and] we thank all of our Bishops for their compassion and generosity.
Once again I thank you and your people for their great generosity in helping the people of these dioceses as they continue the urgent struggle to rebuild and recover their hope and their lives.