Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Helping Those Suffering Due To Hurricanes

By Sharon A. Burns, Director Of Catholic Charities Of The Diocese Of Evansville
CNS Photo

It is a true blessing that so many of you – parishioners, students and others – want to respond so generously to the heart-wrenching devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other areas where people are suffering from the effects of recent hurricanes.

Catholic Charities USA and its affiliate members (diocesan Catholic Charities agencies) offer the largest disaster-response effort to catastrophic events throughout the United States.  We are in the disaster-relief business for the long haul – remaining and serving long after other agencies have completed their first-response efforts.  

For example, there is still a large presence of CCUSA and local CC affiliate care helping victims of Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast.  As you can imagine, recovering from this event like Sandy and Harvey will take years. The Catholic Charities national office has a very-highly-trained response team, as do many of the larger local CC agencies.   

At this time, we all need to pray first – for the victims. As you know from news reports, many have lost all material goods. Some have lost their lives or the lives of family members and friends.

Of course, employment opportunities may decrease as businesses also suffer from devastating losses.  So, let us all take a moment to offer a sincere prayer for all those who are suffering, that God may give them courage and grace, as well as relief.  

It is important, although often difficult to understand, that rushing in to help may be counterproductive.  Direct assistance needs at this time are about rescue – not response.  

Catholic Charities USA offers us (local agencies) guidance about what assistance is needed, where it is needed and when it will be appropriate to provide that assistance.  For example, they host a conference call with agency directors and local disaster relief staff regarding the priority needs – usually on a weekly basis during the early parts of a crisis.

We expect that call to be held at any time. It already may have occurred by the time you read this.  Following that call, I will know how the Diocese of Evansville can best help (e.g. sending a truckload of water, or blankets, or volunteers to a particular location at a particular time).  Once I have that information, Catholic Charities will coordinate efforts among our parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations to offer the appropriate needed assistance.

Catholic Charities will work with all of you in the most impactful way possible.  It is highly likely that we will be undertaking such an effort through the end of this month or early October (e.g. with Hurricane Sandy, one parish sent supplies well over five weeks after the event as that is what was needed).  

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Catholic Charities. Thank you in advance for your generous outpouring of prayers and support for our brothers and sisters in Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere who are just beginning to rebuild their lives after Harvey.

Burns is Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Evansville. This article has been edited to add updated content.