Parishes assist Louisiana Catholics - Catholic Courier

Parishes assist Louisiana Catholics

Three Monroe County parishes have united to help a Louisiana church recover from the devastation wrought last summer by Hurricane Katrina.

The Pittsford parishes of St. Louis and Transfiguration are working with St. Catherine of Siena in Mendon to aid Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church in Chalmette, La., according to Tony Fernandez, chairman of the pastoral council at Prompt Succor.

Fernandez was one of three Prompt Succor representatives who visited the three suburban parishes during the weekend of Jan. 28-29 to talk about the recovery efforts the Pittsford-Mendon parishes are funding. The three parishes are raising $75,000 to help Prompt Succor make needed repairs to such items as the church’s heating and air-conditioning systems and purchase such items as computers and office equipment, he noted.

Prompt Succor was the least damaged of any Catholic church in St. Bernard’s Parish, which lies southeast of New Orleans, Fernandez said. He added that one neighboring church was under 20 feet of water at one point. Floodwaters rose to 6 feet at Prompt Succor, Fernandez said.

Meanwhile, he noted that more than 200 people from St. Bernard’s were killed by the flood, and that the vast majority of the civil parish’s 68,000 residents have yet to return. He added that in many places there are no houses, no phone service, no postal service and no utilities.

“There’s nothing that has coloration,” he added. “All of the trees were denuded of leaves. The wetlands are gray and brown. Of course, there’s a film of mud over everything.”

Mary List, a parishioner at St. Catherine’s who co-organized the three parishes’ fundraising efforts, said that most of the $75,000 needed for Prompt Succor had been raised by mid-February. She added that for every $50 in donations received by her parish, a toy LEGO piece is being added to a model LEGO church the parish is building in its gathering space. When the toy church is complete, it will be filled with cards inscribed with words of encouragement that will be sent to the Catholics in Chalmette, she said.

List noted that her parish has already sent to Prompt Succor a banner inscribed with similar words of encouragement. She added that Fernandez said the Prompt Succor parishioners have been deeply moved by the banner.

“We already have evidence that words of encouragement will go a long way toward making a positive impact on the OLPS parishioners,” she said.

St. Catherine’s pastor, Father F. James Lawlor, noted that the three parishes were linked to Prompt Succor through the efforts of Deacon John McDermott, who coordinated the Diocese of Rochester’s Katrina relief efforts through December. Father Lawlor said his parish thought it was important to do more than just write a check for recovery efforts.

“We chose to affiliate with a parish and learn firsthand of the loss and devastation to people and property,” Father Lawlor said.

The three Pittsford-Mendon parishes are among more than 40 parishes and Catholic schools in the Diocese of Rochester that have formed recovery-oriented partnerships with New Orleans-area churches and schools, according to Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesman. According to information from the Rochester Diocese, parishes in Rochester, Elmira, Churchville, Fairport, Webster, Brockport, Brighton, Avon, Geneseo, Honeoye, Honeoye Falls, Lima, Victor and Auburn have partnered with Louisiana churches.

Diocesan efforts have raised more than $500,000 for recovery in the New Orleans area, Mandelaro added, noting the diocese is the only one in the country to have a formal diocese-to-diocese relief partnership with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The Rochester Diocese’s Web site quotes Father Joseph Palermo of the New Orleans Archdiocese praising the partnership’s fruits.

“These parish-to-parish partnerships are a sign of grace and hope,” Father Palermo said. “They are especially meaningful to many parts of our archdiocese where pastors and churches have lost heart over the challenge of rebuilding damaged buildings and lives.”

Fernandez said that his church is grateful for the assistance offered by the three Pittsford-Mendon parishes.

“Your people are your biggest asset,” he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about diocesan Katrina recovery efforts, visit the diocese’s Web site at Click on “Offices & Ministries,” then “Catholic Charities,” then “Katrina Resources.”

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