Skip to comments.Most New Orleans Parishes Spared Destruction
Posted on 09/07/2005 3:46:07 PM PDT by sionnsar
As the flood waters from Hurricane Katrina begin to subside from New Orleans, plans for the rebuilding of the Diocese of Louisiana are firmly in hand, according to Ann Ball, director of communication. While the members of the 18 New Orleans parishes are dispersed across the Southeast, many having lost their homes and livelihoods, the flooded parishes may have escaped destruction.
We are hearing good news in terms of our churches, Mrs. Ball said. The parishes around Lake Pontchartrain appear to have survived the storm. Christ Church in Slidell is OK, as is Grace Memorial in Hammond, she said, while Christ Church, Covington, sustained only damage to their chapel.
Chris Proctor, headmaster of St. Martins School, Metairie, reported the school was in good shape, coming through relatively unscathed and sustaining no flood damage. The Point Coupee churches north of New Orleans were also unscathed: St. Marys, Morganza; St. Stephens, Innis; and St. Pauls-Holy Trinity, New Roads.
The only church we know of that has been (structurally) damaged is St. Pauls in New Orleans, Mrs. Ball said. Even Holy Comforter down by the river appears not to have been harmed. The diocesan office and Christ Church Cathedral appear to have weathered the storm, she added, noting that a photograph taken of the exterior of the buildings after the storm does not indicate any structural damage. But we have had no confirmation of this, she said.
The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins III, Bishop of Louisiana, will tour the 18 New Orleans parishes Thursday to asses the damage.
The number of Episcopalians lost or rendered homeless by the storm remains unknown. All but 22 of the dioceses 117 clergy had checked in with the diocesan office by Sept. 7. Most of the missing clergy, including retired Bishop Joe M. Doss, lived in or served parishes in the city of New Orleans or its immediate suburbs and are presumed to have heeded the call to evacuate. Bishop Jenkins also called a meeting of the dioceses clergy for Sept. 16 to gather for a time of healing and crisis care management.
In the midst of the confusion, Bishop Jenkins announced plans to create a new Episcopal school system, almost doubling the capacity of the Church schools in the north of the diocese. In a statement released on Sept. 5, Bishop Jenkins stated the five major Episcopal schools in Baton Rouge and Covington would educate 1,200 students evacuated from Episcopal schools in New Orleans.
This would require a large investment of funds and energy, he said, but added, no child in an impacted Episcopal school will be turned away simply for reason of cost.
Mrs. Ball said the diocese was grateful for the many expressions of financial support and moral encouragement. The president of Episcopal Relief and Development, Robert Radtke, and two associates met with Bishop Jenkins and clergy and lay leaders Sept. 2-3 to brief the diocese on the reconstruction process. Mrs. Ball also singled out the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Mass., for their unstinting help to the clergy on a daily basis at St. James Church, Baton Rouge.
For many Louisianans, however, the steps toward rebuilding have begun with small acts of kindness and mercy. The Very Rev. J. Victor Sheldon, rector of St. Margarets, Baton Rouge, learned the town of Bogalusa had run short of infant formula and diapers. Fr. Sheldon drove to a local store and purchased a pallet of infant formula while parishioners supplied diapers. A reserve chaplain in the U.S. Navy, Fr. Sheldon asked the crew of an Army search and rescue helicopter to make two 100-mile trips to deliver the supplies.
I had an idea, since they needed the formula so badly, of a way to get it there quicker, Fr. Sheldon told Gannett newspapers. Driving was going to take too long.
Many longtime residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast instinctively head to their church in times of crisis, but for the members at six of the 10 Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Mississippis Coastal Convocation, church was a vacant lot where a building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Services were held Sept. 4 at five of the six churches.
About 100 parishioners from Church of the Redeemer, Biloxi, held a service on the grounds of the ruined church where nothing remained standing, although most of the rubble had been swept off the site. Spirits soared, according to The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, as members gathered and saw each other for the first time since the storm. Some had harrowing tales of clinging to scraps of floating wood and houses collapsing as they ran out of them, but there do not appear to be any fatalities among the congregation, according to the rector, the Rev. Harold Roberts.
The service was interrupted briefly, according to the Houston Chronicle, when Redeemer member Gig Tisdale landed his National Guard helicopter on the nearby beach to offload relief supplies for his church, stayed for most of the service, and then ran back to join his crew. Participants were amazed when three Navy hovercrafts landed noisily on the beach at the end of the service, jolting them back to the grim reality of the recovery effort.
The situation played out much the same at St. Marks, Gulfport, where the Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray III, Bishop of Mississippi, assisted the rector, the Rev. Bo Roberts. Although the church is not standing physically, Bishop Gray said, spiritually the church continues to stand and we will continue to do the work that God has called us to do.
The first priority, Bishop Gray explained to Episcopal News Service afterward, is to give the local clergy some stability so that they can return to the area. We need to make sure they have a place to live, he said. We will probably get some motor scooters for them because gas is so hard to come by. We will get trailers for two or three clergy to give them temporary space.
The diocese is helping to set up supply areas for local needs. Coast Episcopal School in Long Beach has begun to receive goods and volunteers and is hoping to serve 2,000 hot meals a day. Christus Victor, a Lutheran church in Ocean Springs, is home to Lutheran-Episcopal Services of Mississippi, an ecumenical social ministry organization.
St. Thomas, Diamondhead, will become another distribution point along the Mississippi coast in the weeks ahead. Once these are fully operational, all the people who are eager to help our community will have a place to come to, a place to send materials and we will begin to step out into the community, Bishop Gray said.
Despite the need to focus on their own recovery, Mississippi Episcopalians were not so overcome that they forgot about the pastoral needs of others. Trenise Williams and her fiancé, Joseph Kirsch, were to be married in New Orleans on the day Hurricane Katrina struck. The couple fled with their marriage license and the clothes they were wearing, eventually finding shelter, along with 3,000 refugees, in the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, according to CNN, which reported that the Rev. Horace Choate volunteered to officiate at a ceremony for the couple planned and paid for by local residents and other refugees from the shelter.
I'm not sure how good a Louisiana marriage license is in Mississippi. And I don't think Louisiana has Common Law marriages. So I hope the couple tidies up the paperwork at some point.
Now that brought tears to my eyes.
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