September 9, 2005

Archdiocese of Indianapolis is offering help
to hurricane victims

By Sean Gallagher

Catholics throughout the archdiocese are participating in the relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Katrina by offering monetary donations, working on the scene and opening the doors of schools to educate displaced students.

As of Sept. 6, the archdiocesan Mission Office had received more than $10,000 in contributions from individuals from across the archdiocese.

Special second collections from archdiocesan parishes for the relief of victims of Katrina were taken up on Sept. 3-4 and will be collected again on Sept. 10-11. The donations gathered in these collections will be sent to the Mission Office.

In response to the tsunami disaster in southeast Asia late last year, the Mission Office received more than $400,000 in contributions from Catholics in the archdiocese.

Funds collected by the Mission Office in response to Hurricane Katrina will be given to dioceses directly affected by the storm.

Providence Sister Helen Vinton has ministered in the affected area for more than 10 years through the Southern Mutual Help Association in New Iberia, La., about 120 miles west of New Orleans.

Over that time, she has sought to make a better life for the rural poor working in agriculture and in the fishing and other related industries. Now she is simply helping them and those displaced from the New Orleans area that have come to the region to survive.

Before Katrina, New Iberia had a population of 30,000. Sister Helen said that this number has grown to 150,000 in the days since the hurricane came ashore.

“The biggest problem we have right now is food and water,” she said. “We hope to be getting a helicopter in the next couple of days to help learn more and assess the greater needs of the people here.”

Those wanting to contribute to Sister Helen’s ministry may do so by sending checks made out to the Southern Mutual Aid Association and sent to the Sisters of Providence, One Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876. Mark the envelope for the Louisiana Relief Fund.

In an e-mail newsletter sent on Sept. 1 to all archdiocesan grade schools and high schools, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education encouraged them to wave ordinary rules regarding registration and welcome students displaced by Katrina.

Catholic colleges in the archdiocese also have made efforts to take in students affected by the storm.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College president Sister Joan Lescinski, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, announced on Sept. 6 that the college will welcome displaced students enrolled at colleges and universities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. For the 2005-06 academic year, assistance at up to no-direct cost to students may include tuition, room, board and fees.

Marian College in Indianapolis recently took in a student from Xavier University in New Orleans and will admit other students affected by Katrina on a case-by-case basis.

Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad is doing what it can to participate in the relief of seminarians impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Benedictine Father Mark O’Keefe, the president-rector of the southern Indiana seminary, said that on Friday he received a communiqué from the Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Formation stating that Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans would be closed for the remainder of the fall semester. It went on to request that Saint Meinrad and other seminaries throughout the United States take in Notre Dame Seminary’s 106 seminarians.

Two such men from the Diocese of Biloxi have already arrived. Father Mark said that Saint Meinrad is willing to take in as many as 20 seminarians.

“It’s been a lot of work, but, as a lot of the seminarians have said, it just gives us a sense that we’re actually doing something for the people who suffered that devastation,” Father Mark said.

David Stockstill, 53, was one of the Biloxi seminarians initially taken in by Saint Meinrad. As Katrina approached, he left Notre Dame Seminary for a parish in Kiln, Miss., about five minutes from the coast.

Stockstill, who said he lived through the 1969 Hurricane Camille, said that Katrina was “absolutely terrifying.”

On Saturday, his vocations director informed him that Saint Meinrad had invited him there and that he should leave as soon as possible.

“The monks, the students, have bent over backwards to make us feel at home,” Stockstill said. “I came with two pairs of pants and three shirts. Anything that we need or anything that they think that we need they provide.”

At least one priest from the Archdio-cese of New Orleans, Msgr. Roger A. Swenson, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, La., north of New Orleans, has sought refuge with relatives in the archdiocese.

Msgr. Swenson declined a telephone interview about the disaster, but requested “prayers for the repose of the souls of those who have perished, and also for the consolation and the swift assistance of the survivors.”

Other Catholics from the archdiocese were directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Three young adults from the archdiocese who are studying in the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education ( ACE) program have had their year turned upside down.

Part of the Masters of Education program entails spending two school years helping at under-resourced Catholic schools in the southern states. The three students were teaching at schools in the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.

They were able to evacuate the area before Hurricane Katrina hit and now are waiting for word about the future of the schools where they were serving.

Elizabeth Elsener, one of the three, said that at least two of the three schools that they were serving in has likely been destroyed.

“I feel helpless here at home in Indy unable to do anything but prayer,” she wrote in an e-mail on Sept. 1, “and hoping that somehow we can mobilize efforts to bring relief, financial and otherwise, to our schools and communities in Biloxi.”

Tony Hollowell, son of Roncalli High School president Joseph Hollowell, is another ACE teacher from Indianapolis, serving at Resurrection High School in Pascagoula, Miss., in the Diocese of Biloxi. He returned to Indiana before Katrina hit but returned to Mississippi on Aug. 31.

About a mile from the coast, Resurrec-tion High School received heavy flood damage. Nevertheless, the bishop of Biloxi decided on Sept. 6 to make the effort to re-open it, although a date has not yet been established.

To aid in the clean-up effort, Joseph Hollowell gathered generators, shop vacs and other cleaning materials that are currently unavailable in the affected area and left for Pascagoula on Sept. 6.

“I just thought if there’s any way we can reach out to these people to help them keep it going, we need to do that,” Hollowell said.

St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County is responding to the victims of Hurricane Katrina by lending them direct support.

On Sept. 5, Kevin and Tammy Becht of the parish traveled to Baton Rouge, La., with cash donations as well as supplies ranging from school supplies and baby clothes to bottled water and personal hygiene items.

The donations were given to a parish in Baton Rouge that sent young people to a service camp that St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish hosted this summer called the Catholic HEART Workcamp.

(Criterion reporters Mary Ann Wyand and Brandon Evans contributed to this article.)


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