Her home, as well as her Catholic church and adjoining school where she works, have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
“It’ll be months to get a lot of things up and running, and years to get it back to what it was,” said Joan Bailey Loman, describing the city of Slidell, La., during a telephone interview.
Loman, a native of Ithaca, serves as receptionist for Our Lady of Lourdes School in Slidell. The city, which lies along the Gulf of Mexico 25 miles across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, was hit full force by Katrina on Aug. 29. Yet within this tragedy there is also hope; the parish and school are getting assistance toward their recovery from around the country — including the Southern Tier.
A “Box Tops for Education” drive has begun at Loman’s home parish, St. Catherine of Siena in Ithaca, where her parents were founding members. Through this national program, points are accumulated to earn cash for schools. Box tops will be received through the end of February at receptacles in church entrances. To find out which box tops are accepted, visit www.boxtops4education.com. Contributors may also mail box tops and/or send monetary gifts in care of Our Lady of Lourdes School to Georgia Eastman, 40 Myers Road, Lansing, NY 14882.
Eastman is Loman’s best friend from high school; they have remained close after Loman moved from Ithaca 31 years ago. In fact, Eastman went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process three years ago and was welcomed into the Catholic Church at Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell, with Loman serving as her sponsor and godmother.
“I know that Joan’s church and school are very important to her, so when I read on the school’s Web site that they were asking for box tops to help rebuild their school, I wanted to do whatever I could to help,” Eastman explained.
Another means of support for Our Lady of Lourdes comes from Elmira’s Holy Family Intermediate School. According to Brenda Lisi, principal, teachers are saving their bonus points from Scholastic Book Club and similar companies and putting them toward student literature for the Louisiana school. Also at Holy Family Intermediate, fifth-grade students have been participants in the ClassroomsCare project in which they met a 100-book reading goal that guaranteed a 100-book donation by Scholastic to children in need, including Katrina victims.
The Elmira-Louisiana connection stems from a partnership established this past fall between Elmira’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish — where Holy Family Intermediate School is located — and Slidell’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. The union is part of a formal relationship between the Rochester Diocese and New Orleans Archdiocese in the aftermath of Katrina. Also as part of this agreement, Our Lady of Lourdes in Elmira is sending numerous liturgical items from a “wish list” provided by the Louisiana parish. Karen Batrowny, the Elmira parish’s business manager, noted that some of the items included candle holders, candlesticks, a wedding-candle stand, a chalice, a vase, stoles, altar cloths and prayer booklets.
Flood recovery is nothing new to the Southern Tier: In 1972, the wrath wrought by Hurricane Agnes produced far-reaching effects that last to this day.
“It has actually drastically changed the Elmira area, and it has not been the same since,” Lisi said, citing a troubled economy and declining population.
And yet, Lisi acknowledged that local damage from Agnes was on “such a small scale” compared to the staggering level of death and destruction caused by Katrina.
“You can’t even imagine,” Loman said of the damage in Slidell.
She noted that her own home was destroyed (she plans to rebuild on the same spot), as was Our Lady of Lourdes Church where the roof collapsed. The school was partially saved and renovation work has begun.
However, “All of our school records were lost — and the school was 75 years old,” Loman said.
In the meantime, students have been moved to St. Margaret Mary School in Slidell as part of a platoon system with other Catholic schools shut down by Katrina.
“The schools you might think to be archrivals, and they end up being best friends. The sharing has just been amazing,” remarked Loman, who is the receptionist at St. Margaret Mary during Our Lady of Lourdes’ 1 to 6 p.m. shift.
Loman said numerous charitable efforts are being made to help Our Lady of Lourdes get back on its feet.
“People are calling from all over — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, anyone who has connections with people here,” she said.
She is especially appreciative of support from her native turf, saying she was aware of her friend’s initiative in Ithaca but had not previously known that the Elmira parish and school were helping as well.
“I’m touched by it,” she said. “I’m very impressed.”