Friday, June 30, 2006

Reflections on the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort

It so true that in giving, we receive, for I feel as though I have received far more from this experience than what I gave while down in New Orleans. I am extremely grateful for that opportunity and hope to be a part of future trips down to that region for more service.

I can honestly say that I rarely thought about the problems facing so many of the victims of hurricane Katrina. Being nearly one year removed from when the storm struck and over 1000 miles away from the city of New Orleans, the whole problem was out of sight and out of mind. After being there for several days it became obvious to me the impact this storm had on so many people’s lives. These folks will never forget it. They suffer to this day from it. Their lives are forever changed and they deal with it on a daily basis.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that the storm had hit only a few weeks ago, whether it be from the people you talk to or the sights that you see. It is a complete disaster zone. Traffic patterns are still messed up from folks having been relocated to different parts of the city and the roads not being designed to handle the car volumes coming from these new locations. Power appears to be still out in some areas (eg, street lights are not working). Businesses are closed, entire city wards are as a ghost town with homes and buildings just waiting to be razed.

Thousands of homes are still in need of gutting before their reconstruction can take place. This year, Catholic Charities hopes to gut 1000 homes with the help of volunteers. This is where I found myself - part of a group of 15 men and women, young and old, who came down for 5 days to help however we could.

We managed to gut two homes. It took 15 people, 5 days to gut two homes, and there are thousands of homes in need of similar work. There were times while I was working that I felt as though this work we were doing was useless, like the homes we were working on should simply be leveled.

One afternoon, I got to meet a woman that owned one of the houses that we were working on. She thanked us and shared her story with us before we walked through her house, which was in the process of being gutted. She and her daughters walked ahead and cried as they remembered out loud things about the house that we did not know. Suddenly, this disaster zone that I callously thought should be leveled took on the character of a real home.

I came away from the whole experience realizing how blessed I have been in my life and how good I have it. How fortunate I am to have a good job and to have a home and a family. How I hoped that I would never forget these people or the suffering that I saw. I need to remember that there is suffering in the world and we are called to love one another and assist those in need as the Lord told us through the Corporal works of mercy.

It is difficult to put into words all the aspects of this experience. The labor was exhausting. The daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration were revitalizing. The bond forged with the people I met on this trip was special. There were times when I wanted to stop laboring but seeing other folks persevere, I was inspired to keep going. I really got a sense of fellowship with all the volunteers. So many folks of different ages and from so many different places, coming together to serve.

I have included two videos that document some of the experiences from New Orleans. One is more serious, the other, a collection fun moments that made the whole experience one that I hope I will never forget.


Serious Coverage:

Some Memorable Moments:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Feelings Before A Trip To New Orleans

I'm getting ready to go down to New Orlean's to assist in the Catholic Charities hurricane Katrina relief effort and I'm getting the feeling that the devil is really annoyed at this.

Sunday night I had some very graphic dreams (no - I don't normally have such dreams). I remember waking up early Monday morning, just before I went to morning Mass thinking, how unworthy I feel to go to Mass. My former self would love having dreams like that. In fact, I would have hated waking up from it, but now, I feel like I have somehow sinned. Even while at Mass, the images from the dream kept popping into my head. "Concentrate on the Mass, pray hard", I told myself.

After a long day, I returned home (9pm) to talk to my wife about my concerns over a relationship with a good friend of mine that seems to be slipping away. I've really been bothered by this condition for some time and just needed to vent to my wife for a while about it. That was really helpful, but I'm still anxious to talk to my friend about it. I've decided to wait until after my New Orleans trip to do so, even though I really want to confront him about some things right now.

Anyway, Tuesday morning I got up with my son and decided to go to work a little later than usual so that my wife could sleep in. On my way to work, I decided that I should swing by the Church to say a few prayers before I started my work day, even though I was already late and would be coming back to the church later that afternoon to drop something off at the parish office. I just thought that I really should go to pray before the tabernacle, especially because I didn't feel like it. I finalized this decision at the light where I could turn to go to work or church.

A few minutes later, I was on 355 near the Toys-R-Us. There was a car in the far right lane that took off at a light and swung in front of me in the far left lane. Just before the IHOP, a police officer ran into the street to stop traffic to pull over the speeding car in front of me, or so I thought. To my surprise, he motioned for the car in front of me to go ahead and instead, motioned for me to pull over and he proceeded to write me a ticket. Oh man, just what I needed.

I couldn't believe it. How could this happen? I remember thinking as I was sitting there in my car while the officer was writing the ticket, "man, this is unfair...this is what I get for deciding to say a few prayers in the church?".

So, here I am now, 2 days before my New Orleans trip and I'm just feeling lousy. I keep telling myself, that the devil is really trying to discourage me. I'm struggling right now just to get through the day. I've got this 'woe is me' syndrome working in my head and I know that I shouldn't feel this way. I've got to pray hard and ask the Lord for encouragement.

Does stuff like this ever happen to any of you?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Youth Group Wild Kingdom

Another crazy weekend at St. Martins starting on Friday night, when the Youth Group welcomed graduating 8th graders by hosting the Wild Kingdom party (see the 6 minute video highlight below for a recap of the action).

Saturday kicked off with a MoE meeting featuring a witness talk by one of our guys.

Sunday was the parish picnic and a farewell Mass for Fr. Javier. We also took the time to celebrate Msgr. Brennan's 30 years of service to the Lord through his vocation in the priesthood and Fr. John's 10 years of priestly service. After a short (2 hour) outdoor Mass, we ate, drank and played games. It's always a party at St. Martins.

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