Catholics continue leading hurricane relief efforts

September 28, 2021

Father David Ducote, pastor at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Parish in La Place, La., celebrates an outdoor Mass Sept. 9, 2021, at the home of Adam and Michelle Williams for approximately 35 storm-weary Catholics who needed a respite from cleaning up their homes from Hurricane Ida damage. (Photo by Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald)

HOUSTON (CNS) — Parishes around the Archdiocese continued to gather relief supplies to help those in Louisiana hit hardest by Hurricane Ida almost a month ago.

At St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in northwest Houston, a weekend supply drive collected bottled water, sports drinks, fruit cups and snacks, and other supplies for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in La Place, Louisiana.

The relief aid was destined for La Place, one of many smaller communities that were slammed by Hurricane Ida.

There, La Place parishioners rallied together in faith and in recovery to bring relief to southern Louisiana from the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Ida.

A Covington, Louisiana, resident Betty-Ann Hickey recently learned that one person doing one small thing can have an impact. Hickey, with her son James, her friend Tammy Morris and Morris’s sons Kenneth and Matthew, traveled from St. Tammany Parish to help her friend Father David Ducote, pastor of St. Joan of Arc Church in La Place.

“I have never done anything like this before,” said Hickey, director of music at Most Holy Trinity Church in Covington and associate director of the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “A true friend means you will be there to help people when they need it.”

Once the storm had passed, Hickey was posting on Facebook that she was OK to friends and family since phones and emails weren’t going through. While many were responding, it was a plea from Father Ducote about the need in his area for manpower to do clean up, remove trees, gut houses that impelled her to act.

“I didn’t have any damage to my home, so once we got power back, I didn’t want to sit around feeling sorry for myself,” Hickey told the Clarion Herald, archdiocesan newspaper of New Orleans.

“We who weren’t badly affected have the responsibility to help,” Hickey said. “Today, it’s not us, but the next time, it might be. I would want someone to come help cut a tree off my house.”

On Sept. 9, she took a crew carrying a truckload of supplies from her parish to Lafitte to help.

Jeannie Callaway, administrative assistant to Father Jared Rodrigue, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell, is helping Hickey coordinate volunteers and get donations of supplies and money to the parishes and people who need it most.

Father Rodrigue traveled first Sept. 3 to Destrehan with several parishioners and $3,000 in donations and helped with the relief effort of food coordinated by the local Knights of Columbus.

Then about 50 St. Luke parishioners helped Sept. 7 with manpower and donations in La Place, where they gutted houses and cut down trees (with the help of fraternity brothers with three chain saws) from a list compiled by St. Joan of Arc Church, the same parish supported by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Houston.

St. Luke is working directly with Father Luke Nguyen, pastor of St. Anthony Church in Lafitte, where several Lafitte residents are being housed, to discover immediate needs.
“It is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy to see Catholic Church teaching in its essence — to see faith in action,” Father Rodrigue said.

“There’s great hope in knowing we are capable of giving time and resources, and yet it poses a challenge in learning how to do this better and more often in the future, not just when a tragedy strikes,” the priest added.

When Hickey first went to Lafitte on Sept. 8, she wasn’t prepared for what she saw. People were living in cars or out in the open because their homes and cars were destroyed by floodwaters.

“There are so many houses still with water; some houses are not even accessible. There is so much water and mud in the yards,” said Hickey.

Hickey said she is inspired by her Catholic faith to help others.

“In all of this, I see the best of the Church. When you read the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles were of one accord — everyone cared for everyone. One who has more should care for one who has less. The Church that Jesus founded is that you share what you have. ... If we believe in the mission of the Church, we have a responsibility to be the hands and hearts of the Lord.”