August 11, 2006

Be Our Guest / Laura Halleman

Archdiocesan youth volunteers made
a difference in Katrina relief efforts

(Editor’s note: The following letter was submitted to The Criterion’s online editor, Brandon Evans. It was written in late July while Father Jonathan Meyer, archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, was leading a mission trip of young people in Mississippi.)

My name is Laura Halleman, and I am volunteering out of the St. Clare Parish (Biloxi, Miss.) site and working with the archdiocese’s group of volunteers that are here this week.

I have been reading your blog daily, (, and have to say it truly inspires me to hear the volunteers, in their own words, talk about how much it means to help here in Mississippi.

I would like you and your archdiocese to know that these volunteers are without a doubt one of the most amazing groups to work with.

The conditions here are hot, and mosquitoes are on the warpath, but each teenager and adult takes it in stride. They never complain and are so incredibly hard-working.

Yesterday, I was on a roof with one group. We are demolishing the home so the homeowners can rebuild. There was one girl who worked on the corner of the roof with a hammer, taking out nails to prepare for it to be torn down. I stopped several times to watch her. What struck me was the peace that she had with meeting the task head-on and seeing it through.

Unfortunately, I don’t know her name and, as you can understand, it’s a little difficult to keep track of all of the names in the group, but her determination was uplifting.

I wish that I could be on each and every site the teams are working on, but time doesn’t allow that, so I try to go from job to job to do what I can.

These volunteers have taken on such monumental tasks with no complaints, and I just wanted you and the archdiocese to know how truly grateful we are for their help.

They are helping residents get one step closer to rebuilding their lives and regain a sense of normalcy following the hurricane.

(Laura Halleman is a resident of Biloxi, Miss.) †

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