September 23, 2005


Catholic Charities offers the hands and heart of Christ

Bishop Robert Muench of Baton Rouge, La., called the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina “a living nightmare.” He cited the loss of human life and of property, possessions, employment, security and comfort. “On the other hand,” the bishop said, “this is a graced opportunity. In the midst of this horrendous crisis, we look to God and God’s word.”

Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans offered two priorities for his local Church: 1) the safety and security of all victims of Hurricane Katrina—especially people trapped in all sections of the archdiocese, and 2) the collaborative work of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge and the American Red Cross to offer relief, food, water and shelter, and to help people who have been separated from one another to regain communication.

The archbishop also said: “I want to assure you that my brother priests and bishops are committed to working with you as soon as feasible to address the rebuilding of our beloved Church in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”

The living nightmare is the evil caused by this unprecedented natural disaster (and by our failure as a nation to adequately prepare for, and respond to, this grave crisis). The graced opportunity is the chance to offer the healing hands and forgiving heart of Christ to all who are in need. Every Catholic in the United States is called to pray for and reach out to our sisters and brothers in the Gulf Coast communities. One important way to fulfill this obligation is by supporting the work of Catholic Charities.

Healing, help and rebuilding are the work of Catholic Charities—in times of crisis and during ordinary times. Catho­lic Charities USA , which has been commissioned by the U.S. Catholic bishops to represent the Catholic community in times of domestic disaster, responds with emergency and long-term assistance as needed. Its Disaster Response Office connects the Church’s social service agencies and disaster planning offices across the nation.

Catholic Charities agencies from across the country, including our own Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, have been working to meet the immediate needs of evacuees that have come into their communities as well as planning to provide assistance for the long-term needs of the victims. Catholic Charities USA is collecting financial donations to fund these local Catholic Charities agencies’ emergency and long-term disaster recovery efforts.

To date, Catholic Charities USA has sent nearly $1 million to assist with the emergency response following Hurri­cane Katrina. Twenty-one Catholic Charities agencies have each received grants ranging from $10,000 to $110,000 to help provide immediate support. Some of the vital community support may include temporary housing, food, clothing and other basic necessities, such as crisis and grief counseling, and financial assistance. These initial grants help Catholic Charities agencies in the Gulf Coast communities meet the immediate, emergency needs of victims.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has received an overwhelming response from the Catholic community for its Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Archdiocesan Catholic Charities continues to coordinate all efforts with the city of Indianapolis, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, United Way of Central Indiana, Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, and many other religious and secular organizations. All organizations involved are preparing to welcome evacuees to Indiana and planning for their short-term needs and their long-term survival.

While it is difficult to estimate the number of households that will relocate to Indiana, either temporarily or permanently, we want to ensure that our doors are open for all who want to come. We want to be the hands (and heart) of Christ here in Indiana and wherever people are suffering and in need.

As Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi, Miss., said: “To the question, ‘Why?’ I must answer, ‘I do not know.’ But this I do know: that the love of God is with us. That the Lord who wept over Jerusalem, knowing that it would be destroyed, is with us.”

The Lord is with us in the healing hands and heart extended by Catholic Charities—here in our archdiocese and throughout the United States.

For more information about how you can help Catholic Charities, call 317-236-1589 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1589. Also, more information can be found at by clicking on the Catholic Charities link.

— Daniel Conway

(Daniel Conway is a member of the editorial committee of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc.) † 


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