Catholic groups are mobilizing to help in Hurricane Harvey's aftermath

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic dioceses and charities are
quickly organizing to help in the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane that made
landfall with winds of 130 miles per hour late on Aug. 25 into the Rockport,
Texas area, northeast of Corpus Christi.

The hurricane, named Harvey, is said
to be the strongest one to hit the United States in more than a decade and
perhaps the strongest one to make landfall in Texas.

Catholic Charities USA, as well as the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul Disaster Services, announced early on Aug. 26 that they’re
mobilizing to help an as-yet-unknown number of persons affected by the hurricane. The
Texas Catholic Conference has a list of charities helping with the disaster listed on its website at

Authorities reported one casualty as of Saturday afternoon,
but because of safety issues, not many emergency teams have been yet able to
respond to the aftermath. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state a
disaster area, which will allow federal money to help in reconstruction.
Catholic groups said they want to help with the immediate needs of the
communities affected.

“We will be sending in rapid-response teams to help our impacted
St. Vincent de Paul councils and we are coordinating nationally with the
Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta and (Catholic Charities USA),” said Elizabeth
Disco-Shearer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA.

In the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, Bishop Daniel E.
Flores authorized a second collection to be taken up at the diocese’s local
churches on the weekend of Aug. 26-27 to send to Catholic Charities in nearby
Corpus Christi and “other places hardest hit by loss of power, storm damage,

It’s been hard to communicate with other areas, said Bishop
Flores in an Aug. 26 interview with Catholic News Service, so it’s hard to
gauge the extent of the damage. But he said his diocese wanted to get a head
start to quickly divert help where it is needed and as fast as possible.

If the Rio Grande Valley, where Bishop Flores’ diocese is
located, was spared the major impact of Hurricane Harvey, then the diocese had
a duty to help their neighbors to the north, in the coastal areas of Corpus
Christi and Galveston-Houston, which seemed to be hit hardest, he said. Hurricane
Harvey seemed to enter near Corpus Christi and affected seven coastal counties
in Texas and one Louisiana parish.

“We continue to pray for every for everyone affected by the
hurricane and those who are at risk as the storms continue,” said Bishop Flores
in a statement.

Though the brunt of the hurricane’s winds has passed and
Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm hours after landfall, heavy rains and
“catastrophic flooding” are expected for days, said the National Hurricane

“We have to remember ‘ the families affected by flood damage
in the next few days in other parts of the state will be in need of relief,”
said Bishop Flores. “We will assess better how we can help as we get further
information about the needs from the Texas Catholic Conference and Catholic

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops, is the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, an
area declared in a state of disaster.

In an Aug. 26 statement published by the archdiocese, he
asked for prayers “for all of those affected by the storm and in need of assistance
during this natural disaster.”

Powerful winds and heavy rainfall have impacted many lives
and homes throughout Galveston-Houston, said the cardinal, and many in the southern
counties of his archdiocese have already suffered substantial property damage
and losses.

“Numerous homes in these communities are currently without
power. Several forecasts anticipate additional storm damage and flooding in the
coming days, along with high winds and tornado activity,” Cardinal DiNardo

Up to 250,000 have been reported without power in Texas, a
number that’s expected to rise.

Bishop W. Michael Mulvey, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, said
he was grateful to the bishops who reached out to him and to his diocese. He
said the true damage around the diocese still is not known and officials are
waiting for conditions that will allow a better assessment of the damage.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo asked for prayers for emergency
personnel and volunteers who are out and about in dangerous conditions and also “for those residing in our archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be
safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”


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