Archdiocese continues rebuilding lives
on Gulf Coast

By Stefanie Anderson
Special to The Criterion

(Editor’s note: In June, Stefanie Anderson joined a group of parishioners from St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus to help people whose lives and homes had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In this first-person account, the communications and marketing coordinator for the archdiocese’s Secretariat of Catholic Charities and Family Ministries shares her experiences.)

WAVELAND and BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS.—A team of mostly teenagers nailed down new subflooring, sanded drywall and painted calming shades of blue and green in Cassie Rhodes Badin’s home.

Like many people whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, the 63-year-old woman is eternally grateful for the help she has received from volunteers to rebuild the home she inherited from her father: a new roof, interior ceiling, drywall, plumbing, electrical lines and insulation.

A year after the storm struck, the rebuilding in the Gulf Coast region is still in its early stages. The recovery process involves the intertwining of lives from across the United States.

During my trip, I had the opportunity to meet Cassie and others like her, who must rebuild their lives and homes on small incomes and rely on the generosity of strangers. The people I spoke with touched my heart forever.

Cassie lost her home on the beach in Bay St. Louis during the early hours of Aug. 29, 2005, when the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over land.

She was staying with her brother farther inland, where she watched water flood his home in Waveland. She witnessed the reuniting of a husband and wife after they were ripped out of their home on the beach, clung to trees for several hours and miraculously survived. She now is in the process of renovating the home of her father, who passed away shortly before the storm turned her life upside down.

Cassie is one of the people who have been helped by the St. Clare Recovery Center, located on the grounds of St. Clare Parish in the Diocese of Biloxi.

The center was initiated after a mission trip by parishioners from St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. With the assistance of donations and funding from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis Hurricane Katrina Fund (see graphic), the center connects volunteers and resources with those who need help rebuilding their homes.

Located on the beach, St. Clare Church and School were destroyed during the

hurricane. Still, the parish’s Blessed Virgin Grotto remained intact. Parishioners now celebrate the Eucharist in a military tent, and their school operated out of similar tents until May. The school is now permanently closed, and children will attend a school a few miles away.

During this June trip, our team was in Waveland to transform one of the many Quonset huts that formerly housed St. Clare School into a shower facility, meeting area and sleeping quarters for numerous volunteers. In less than two days, we set up several dozen metal beds, installed two hot water heaters and four washer/dryer units, and cleared out numerous tents with the remnants of an elementary school.

On the morning that Cassie came to the Recovery Center, she was looking for help in putting down a new subfloor in her home. About 10 minutes later, we discovered that a group of volunteers from Jefferson City, Mo., had arrived, and one volunteer was an expert in installing flooring! They began working almost immediately.

During our conversation, Cassie began to cry when she thought of all those who had helped her from many different Christian groups. She said strangers showed up the day after the storm with smiling faces and clean drinking water.

She told us of volunteers who had replaced her roof, gutted her home, and hung drywall and insulation. Her plans for retirement as an elementary school teacher were now on hold so she could continue to have an income to buy supplies for her house.

I believe that tragedies highlight the quiet heroes that live among us. Those people who can persevere through this kind of adversity are examples for others to emulate. God gives us these humble angels.

These major disasters sometimes make us question God’s motives or plan, but the aftermath makes us realize that God loves us and that he gives us love to share with and receive from others. In helping, we are the face of Christ to those in need, but they are also the face of Christ to us.

In our archdiocese, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein has agreed to support the St. Clare Recovery Project. We have had several groups go to the Gulf Coast region to help. The Hurricane Katrina Ad-Hoc Committee believes that by focusing our efforts in the Waveland area, we can have a visible impact in a concentrated area.

Visit to learn about how you can help with this effort. See more pictures, watch video interviews and learn how you can help the residents of Waveland move forward with their lives.

We cannot be all things to all people, but through the St. Clare Recovery Project, as donors and small teams, we can make a diffenece in the lives of these residents. Not all of us will be called to visit Waveland or are skilled in the areas of plumbing, drywall, electricity or roofing, yet all of us can make a difference.

This trip changed my perspective on my work at Catholic Charities. Some problems seem insurmountable, but we have to make a leap of faith and start doing something.

A sign posted at St. Clare Parish for all to remember reads: “Katrina was big…but GOD IS BIGGER!” †


Local site Links: