September 9, 2005

Little Sisters care for New Orleans
home residents displaced by hurricane

By Mary Ann Wyand

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Little Sisters of the Poor in Indianapolis and throughout the United States are providing care for 64 residents of the Mary-Joseph Residence for the Elderly in New Orleans.

The residents of that Little Sisters’ home for the elderly poor, which was founded in 1868, were evacuated to St. Clare Manor, a Catholic nursing home in Baton Rouge, La., on Aug. 27, one day before the hurricane’s high winds and flooding devastated New Orleans. Their 90-mile trip to safety took nearly seven hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 10.

Sister Margaret BanarSister Margaret Banar, who ministers at the St. Augus­tine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis and served at the New Orleans home for nine years during the 1980s, was contacted by Mother Celine de la Visitation, the superior general of the international order based in St. Pern, France, last week and instructed to fly to Baton Rouge on Sept. 1 to help about eight Little Sisters care for the displaced residents from New Orleans.

A sign displayed at the reception desk at the St. Augus­tine Home for the Aged on Aug. 31 explained that, “Our Little Sisters in New Orleans had to evacuate to Baton Rouge … with our residents. They were able to take very little with them and now they are in need of financial help. Anything that you could donate would be greatly appreciated. One of our sisters from here is flying down tomorrow to help the sisters care for the residents.”

Sister Geraldine Harvie, superior of the Indianapolis home, said on Aug. 31 that, “In many ways, we are blessed because our residents are safe. They are unhappy because they want to go home and they don’t understand why they can’t. Our sisters are overburdened [there] and Sister Margaret is going down to assist them. But we have to count our blessings. God has protected us during these days, and the people who have assisted us in this nursing home have been very kind and helpful.”

The Little Sisters’ home in New Orleans is located in an area on the west bank of the Mississippi River that was least affected by the disaster, she said, “but there is no way that the sisters and residents can go back for a while.”

Sister Geraldine said two Hispanic residents of the New Orleans home were transported to the St. Augustine Home last weekend.

“I believe there are four residents going to Cincinnati,” she said, “and, for the moment, four residents going to Washington.”

When the residents were forced to evacuate the home in New Orleans, Sister Geraldine said, “they only took the very essentials with them. They haven’t got a lot of change of clothing or anything so we have to begin to buy them the essentials.”

Sister Margaret said it is sad to see so many people suffering from the destruction caused by the category 4 storm.

“I was in New Orleans for nine years so I know the area that is affected,” she said. “Everybody is suffering. The whole city has been paralyzed.”

In Baton Rouge, Sister Margaret will help care for the remaining residents at the nursing home until they are relocated to other homes operated by the Little Sisters.

“Many of the residents are infirm,” Sister Geraldine said, “and the sisters are caring for them without the usual aid that we have from [lay] staff members.”

Sister Margaret said she is going to Baton Rouge “to bring my energy to them, to be a support to the sisters that are there,” for about two weeks.

“One of the hard things about the sisters being there is that they have no chapel,” Sister Geraldine said. “They had Mass for the feast of Blessed Jeanne Jugan [on Aug. 30], but they’re not sure about having daily Mass. They don’t have the Blessed Sacrament there, and the Eucharist is our life.

“Our hearts are bleeding for everyone,” she said.

The Little Sisters also operate the Sacred Heart Residence in Mobile, Ala., she said, and all the sisters and residents there are safe.

“The elderly residents don’t understand what has happened,” Sister Margaret said. “One of the residents said, ‘The sun is out. Why can’t we go home?’ ”

(For information about how to help the Little Sisters of the Poor with their ministry to the elderly poor, call the St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis at 317-872-6420.)


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