March 3, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

The arts reflect hope in hurricanes’ aftermath

It’s been six months since Gulf Coast Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the South. Criterion readers are already aware of the countless efforts of churches, organizations and individuals who have sacrificed time, energy and money. Some of us know firsthand stories from friends, relatives or colleagues affected by the storms.

Unfortunately, there is more to be done. Many still suffer because of inadequate or mismanaged work or funds. Recently, while visiting relatives in Ohio, I read a column in The Plain Dealer in Cleveland by Stuart Leavenworth, a member of the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board—McClatchy NewsService/New York Times. He revealed that because of lack of funds, he and hundreds of other eager volunteers still wait to be deployed to the South to do what they can. This is not unusual.

How frustrating for those who truly want to serve! Many, however, are using whatever talents they have to help in other ways.

For example, a group of New Orleans artists recently was in the Indianapolis area with an exhibit to raise additional interest and funds for hurricane-affected areas.

Not long ago, I also received a book—Beyond Katrina—that is providing funds through its sales for hurricane victims to rebuild their lives. This book contains “poems, quotations and images shared by victims, volunteers and observers whose lives have been forever changed by the power of nature and the kindness of human beings,” according to the Arts and Healthcare Initiative of the Arts Council of Central Louisiana (AHI), the book’s publisher. Its editor, Patricia Powell, assisted by AHI volunteers and artists, claims Beyond Katrina helped people “express themselves through the arts and ultimately heal.”

The Arts and Healthcare Initiative began at CHRISTUS St. Francis Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria, La., in February 2004. More information about AHI’s work and the book can be found at or via Judy Ginsburgh at 318-484-4474 or judy@louisiana

Although some of the insightful material published in Beyond Katrina is anonymous, I feel compelled to mention one of the many signed works, “The Canticle of New Orleans,” by Daughter of St. Paul Sister Margaret Charles Kerry. I think her poem should be set to music. Each first line of the five stanzas—“Waters of the earth … Winds of the sky … City of humanity … People of God … and People of New Orleans”—ends like a litany with “Bless your Maker.”

I wish I could share more of the talent in Beyond Katrina because each personal piece is special in its own way. The book reflects, as its back cover notes, a wide range of emotions: “the rage, the fear, the helplessness, the frustration, the gratitude, the love, the compassion, and the belief that we will recover.”

We pray that will indeed be the case.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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