July 20, 2012

Volunteers see outreach to tornado victims as a way to live out faith

Veronica Fuentes, center, and Elizabeth Jamison, right, associate director of the archdiocesan vocations office, help with landscaping work at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville on June 30. Also assisting in the project are Letsy McCarthy, left, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, and Daughter of Charity Sister Theresa Sullivan. (Submitted photo)

Veronica Fuentes, center, and Elizabeth Jamison, right, associate director of the archdiocesan vocations office, help with landscaping work at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville on June 30. Also assisting in the project are Letsy McCarthy, left, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, and Daughter of Charity Sister Theresa Sullivan. (Submitted photo) Click for a larger version.

By Sean Gallagher

Elizabeth Jamison felt restless when she traveled to Henryville a few weeks after a devastating tornado tore through the southern Indiana town on March 2.

She went with a friend to lend a helping hand in the relief effort, but the magnitude of the needs made her uneasy.

Looking back, she knows those feelings were a way that God spoke to her heart.

“When you’re taking your faith seriously and living a life of prayer, you should feel a little restless when you come across a situation where somebody needs help,” said Jamison, associate director of the archdiocesan vocations office. “That should make you [feel] a little restless. It’s because you’re called to do something about it.”

When Jamison returned to her Indianapolis home after that first trip to Henryville, she started to organize a service trip sponsored by the vocations office for many volunteers from across the archdiocese.

That day of service brought together approximately 35 adult Catholics from across central and southern Indiana on June 30 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville.

Some people installed a new deck on a tornado damaged building acquired by the parish. Others helped replace a ceiling and roof on a similar building.

Both buildings will be used to coordinate relief and rebuilding efforts, and to store supplies and tools to be used in providing aid to those affected by the tornado.

Another group of volunteers helped clear storm debris and worked on landscaping.

Deacon Thomas Hill, who ministers at St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, came with his wife, Judy, and a son. Deacon Steven House of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh and his wife, Rochelle, also volunteered their time and talents.

A week earlier, Deacon Hill had knelt on the floor of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during his ordination Mass. On June 30, he knelt again while hammering nails into the new deck.

“It was a great living symbol,” said Deacon Hill of the service he gave so soon after his ordination. “It’s just what we do. It just felt so natural to Steve and to me, and also for my wife and son and Rochelle. It’s just what we do, and we felt comfortable in doing that. It was a great affirmation for us.”

The trip also affirmed the desire to serve for Veronica Fuentes, a young adult member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

“I like to help others,” she said. “I felt like this was a call to go and serve and do something for others. This helped me to be with others, and see how we can serve God in giving something to others.”

Fuentes was especially glad to help alongside Catholics from so many places across the archdiocese.

“It was like we were from one parish,” Fuentes said. “We knew that what brought us there was our love for Jesus and our love to help others. Jesus is the one who actually brought us together. We were like brothers and sisters there, sharing our faith, sharing our experiences and making new friends.”

One of those new friends was Father Steven Schaftlein, St. Francis Xavier’s pastor.

“They were a talented group,” he said. “They came with lots and lots of skills. We got a tremendous amount of stuff done that day.”

Although Father Schaftlein was grateful for the service that the volunteers gave to his parish, he also saw how the disaster which struck his faith community can benefit Catholics who come to volunteer there.

“A situation like this gives an opportunity for a significant number of parishioners to have a personal experience of being of service to others and seeing it over the long haul,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for education of what our faith is about.”

Deacon Hill was proud of what he and the other volunteers accomplished despite working in the midst of temperatures that were higher than 100 degrees, and he wanted to do more.

“We got a lot accomplished,” he said. “We were moving along so well that I hated to quit.” †

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