September 16, 2005

Catholic Charities leads archdiocese’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts

By Brandon A. Evans

More than 1,000 people forced out of their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have found their way to Indianapolis and Catholic Charities is working to help them piece their lives back together.

“One of the unique services that we may be able to offer is ‘evacuee resettlement’ based on the model of the Refugee Resettlement Program operated by Catholic Charities Indianapolis for more than 20 years,” said David Siler , archdiocesan executive director of Catholic Charities. “This may include identifying viable housing options, job placement, home furnishing, school enrollment, etc.”

Siler said Catholic Charities is coordinating the money, services, housing, education and other donations that archdiocesan Catholics are offering.

Recently, Mary Armstrong-Smith joined Catholic Charities as the official contact for evacuee resettlement.

Anyone wanting more information about how to offer evacuee support, or any evacuee seeking help, should call Armstrong-Smith at 317-236-1589 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1589.

Besides working with archdiocesan agencies, Siler has been meeting with Indianapolis officials, other relief agencies and leaders of other religious denominations working to coordinate aid for those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Last Friday, Siler met with about 100 representatives of the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis.

“The faith community is coming together without regard to creed at this time to focus on the needs of God’s people,” Siler said.

In addition to the Church Federation, Siler said he has met twice with representatives from the mayor’s office, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way of Central Indiana.

“United Way is working hard to become the clearing-house for both offers of support for the evacuees and requests for assistance,” Siler said. “We are trying hard not to duplicate services and make the process of getting help as seamless as possible.”

At least 50 social service agencies in the area are getting involved.

The hardest thing so far, he said, is managing the large number of offers for help that Catholic Charities has received—but Siler is glad for it.

“We are working overtime to keep people informed and to respond to their offers,” he said. “We ask that people be patient with us.”

One means that Catholic Charities has offered to help people who want to aid the hurricane victims is a brand new website—a project done for free by Innovative Edit that coincidentally was ready for launch just when the disaster struck.

On Sept. 9, the website at ( went online. The information on how to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina can be reached through that Web page or by a link from the archdiocesan home page at

“We intend to utilize the site to keep the community updated on our relief efforts related to Hurricane Katrina,” Siler said. “The Web is a wonderful way to inform large amounts of people.

“Our hope is that the new website will be a resource for the community to learn about our many services in order to refer people in need and for others to become involved in our ministry with their gifts of time, talent and treasure.”

All around the archdiocese, stories are spreading of how people, parishes and institutions are helping the victims:

• As of Sept. 12, the Mission Office had received more than $185,000 for its Hurricane Katrina relief fund. However, most of these funds are from individuals as the office has received second collections at Masses from only a few parishes.

• St. Monica Parish, in a recent second collection, brought in approximately $28,000 and in a separate effort collected approximately 20,000 pounds of clothing.

• Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is welcoming students who were enrolled at colleges and universities damaged by Katrina for the current academic year, with assistance up to full tuition, room, board and fees.

• Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad will host, for the remainder of the academic year, eight seminarians of the Diocese of Biloxi who had been studying at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

• Roncalli High School in Indianapolis held a prayer service on Sept. 15 to pray for those who continue to suffer in the wake of the disaster and also to continue to discern ways to support relief efforts.

• Schools all around the archdiocese are holding fundraisers for the hurricane victims, including St. Barnabas and St. Roch schools in Indianapolis. St. Barnabas’ combined total from school donations and second collections from Masses totaled approximately $32,000.

• The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education has asked all Catholic schools to accommodate evacuees in any way possible.

• The archdiocesan Birthline ministry has already served at least one mother and her toddler, and is preparing packages of clothing and formula to deliver to others in need.

• Parishioners at St. Michael Parish in Greenfield have delivered at least five truckloads of supplies to Louisiana. Parishioners have also been sending individual packages of supplies, and three nurses from the parish spent a week providing care at the Plaquemine Care Center Plaquemine, La.

• Holy Spirit School in Indianapolis is taking in two children affected by the hurricane and the St. Vincent de Paul Society is arranging for their clothing, toiletries and other material needs.

• St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg collected scores of items for the victims—so much that the pastor called it an overwhelming sight. The parish is also offering 25 percent of its festival proceeds this weekend to the Red Cross.

• Sister Demetria Smith, mission educator for the archdiocese and a member of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, has traveled to Alabama to offer her service as a nurse.

• On the national scale, Catholic Charities USA has provided $760,000 in initial emergency funding to assist with the recovery efforts.

Siler sees the work of God in the outpouring of support.

“I always find it very easy to see the work of the Holy Spirit during times of crisis,” he said. “Of course, we grieve the loss of life, and the life that the survivors have had to leave behind, but we at Catholic Charities cling to the faith and hope that Christ promised to walk beside us in the midst of the storm.

“It has been very inspiring for all of us to see the community pull together like never before.” †


Local site Links: