Maryland parishioners urged to help one another in flood aftermath

By Christopher Gunty

the immediate aftermath of the flood that washed through Main Street and other
parts of historic Ellicott City May 27, St. Paul Church, perched on the hill
above the floodwaters, was able to serve folks in little ways.

The church acted as a way
station for those trying to get home, and coordinated transportation for some
who could not get to their vehicles. Seven inches of rain fell in one afternoon
on the town and nearby Catonsville.

The first couple of days, the
parish had limited electricity and no running water, according to the pastor,
Father Warren Tanghe. Over the next several days, it served as a base of
operations for Baltimore Gas and Electric power crews.

Just six days after the flood,
and on the day when some Main Street business owners and residents were allowed
brief access to their properties, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori
celebrated Mass June 2 for the vigil of the feast of Corpus Christi at St.

He told a story of how, early in
his priesthood, he stopped to visit a woman who was dying. Though he expected
to stay for only a short while, when she asked him to stay — as she did not
expect to live much longer — he stayed with her until she passed away.

In prayer before the Blessed
Sacrament the next day, he said, he could imagine the Lord telling him that as
the Lord stays with his people, the young priest should do the same.

“It was this early lesson in my
priesthood that prompted me to come here today as you cope with the aftermath
of severe flooding, a severe hardship coming so soon after the last
catastrophic flood in 2016,” the archbishop said in his homily. “A number of
you, I know, were able to view your flood-damaged properties today and you face
difficult questions and decisions as you look to the future.”

He acknowledged that a number of
people from inside and outside the close-knit community are pitching in to

“I came today just to be with
you, to pray with you, to offer you a word of love and encouragement, and in
this difficult time, to remind you of the abiding presence of the Lord in our
midst. For this is what the feast of Corpus Christi is all about — the true
eucharistic presence of Jesus body, blood, soul and divinity,” Archbishop Lori

“A principal message of today’s
feast might be summed up this way: As Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist,
so we need to be present to those in need,” he added.

He said the presence of loved
ones can be a comfort in times of tragedy, even if they cannot change the
situation. “We also rely on the friendship and love of those who know us well,
who know our strengths and weakness, who understand how we react to the
curveballs that life inevitably hurls at us in one form or another.

“Jesus is present to us in the
same way. Pope Francis often reminds us that the Lord knows us, loves us and
cares about us,” the archbishop said.

Reflecting on the day’s readings
about the Eucharist and Christ’s sacrifice for us, Archbishop Lori called on
the parishioners in Ellicott City similarly to sacrifice themselves for others.

“As we experience the depths of
the Lord’s love for us, do we not also hear the Lord saying to you and me:
‘Love one another as I have loved you’?” he asked. “In reaching out to your
friends and neighbors who are enduring this difficult plight, you give evidence
that the Christ whom you receive lives in you, speaks with your voice and
serves the needs of others with your hands.”

The archbishop encouraged the
people to allow the eucharistic presence of Jesus to make them more present to
one another and give themselves to one another, even in the most trying of

“That is the key to rebuilding
not merely our town but indeed our very lives,” he said.

The archbishop also acknowledged
the help of first responders and rescue workers and prayed for Eddison Hermond,
a National Guardsman who died after being swept away by flood waters while aiding
a shop owner.

After the Mass, Father Tanghe
noted that rather than providing shelter and other immediate assistance now, the
parish was focused on helping people deal with the grief they are feeling.

“It’s not quite a despair,” he
said, “but a sense of defeat.”

Two years ago, people readily
said they would rebuild, with an almost fervent spirit. This time, that’s not
so much the case.

He said his homily the next day
would begin and end with hope.

He said that in confession,
sometimes he hears words of despair. “One has to acknowledge that. One can’t
explain why these things happen.”

Father Tanghe said he thinks in
many ways the impact from this flood will be more extensive than in 2016. He
thinks the parish will be called on to help people who have been displaced find
longer-term housing.

“People are asking whether they
want to rebuild,” the pastor said. A lot of that hinges on developing a solid
plan to mitigate the potential for flooding in the future, he added.

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Gunty is associate
publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of

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