Dear Friends in Christ:
What a year! We continue to pray for all of those who are still affected by Hurricane Harvey and the floods. In addition to the trauma of losing their homes and all of their possessions, they have also had to deal with the mental anguish of trying to figure out what to do, where to live, and how to pay for things. Then, there is the stress of attempting to deal with the various government agencies and insurance companies, contractors and builders while trying to replace their material possessions. Even with all of this on their shoulders, one of the hardest things that those who were affected have had to deal with is that for so many other people, the hurricane and the floods were an event of a week or so and then life went back to normal as though nothing happened. Trying to cope emotionally and spiritually while dealing with feelings of isolation and abandonment, make this a special challenge.
Our efforts here at the parish continue. Each day, we are trying to let our families, neighbors and friends know that that they are not alone. God is with them and so is our parish family. Great strides have been made but there is so much more to go. While it has now been a year, by my reckoning, most people have not yet been able to return home and for those who have, only a small number have everything back in place. Most are still living in the midst of rebuilding.
Our estimate is that about 20% of our parishioners were directly affected. That is over 1000 families. We had many others who were indirectly impacted by caring for family members and friends who lost their homes. During the year since Hurricane Harvey, through our Social Service Ministries, our parish has assisted directly over 900 households, parishioners and non-parishioners. This number does not include the many families aided in the immediate aftermath of the floods. We have assisted with more than a half million dollars in financial aid and grants to help people rebuild. We continue to assist new families and others who have not yet been able to get on their feet. Special thanks and gratitude go to Deborah, Vivian and Glorivel of our Social Service Ministry staff and the parishioner volunteers who spent countless hours organizing home clean-up crews and continue to help those who were affected. This is in addition to all of the regular help in providing for people in need. What is amazing is that Deborah and others who were leading our efforts were themselves flood victims. We also extend our appreciation to Richard, Haidee, Julie, Jennifer and Chris of our Parish Life Department. In the immediate aftermath of the floods, they took charge in setting up for FEMA and organizing and running the supply depot. Haidee, like Deborah, also lost her home but was here helping others. Pete, Belinda, Jean, Cal, along with the rest of the Administrative and Maintenance staff were here leading and making sure we were able to get up and running to help others. Pete, Jean, and Cal also lost their homes to the floods, but they too, were here to serve others. Most importantly were the parishioners and parish groups who instantly sprang into action: the ACTS community, TMIY, the Bobs, St. Anne’s and St. Monica’s, the choir members, the Knights of Columbus, the Young Adult Community and so many others. Neighbors helping neighbors, Christians serving others in time of need, disciples serving the Lord.
All of this was done while the parish itself was hugely impacted by the floods, suffering hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and even more in lost income which resulted in staff cuts and layoffs and an across the board budget reduction of 30%. This impacted our programming, but we too are making strides at recovery. While it will be some time before the majority of parishioners who had to move away will be able to return (and some have permanently relocated), each week happily sees some familiar faces back home.
As we look back with the eyes of faith, we can see the hand of the Lord guiding us and leading us. We see God’s love everywhere.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately