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Issue Date:  September 23, 2005

Parishioners across the land reach out

In his Editor’s Note “A grace-filled opportunity” (NCR, Sept. 9), Tom Roberts asked readers to respond to an idea he heard from Mary Jaeger, a reader in the Rockford, Ill., diocese. She wondered how she might find someone with the authority to match up Catholic parishes around the country with those in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, creating a network of “sister parishes.”

NCR received e-mails from readers all over the country -- many had suggestions about how to implement Jaeger’s idea; others wrote in to say their parishes were already doing something similar. Here’s a sample of the responses:

I think that establishing parish-to-parish relationships across the United States is an excellent idea.

The need to make sense out of tragedy, to derive some semblance of meaning from all this, can be done best in the company of other parishioners. Local government and federal agencies can help with some of the basic physical necessities. But spiritually, the needs are great at times like this and our aid can help turn the tide from despair to hope.

Patchogue, N.Y.

* * *

I think it is a noble idea to consider matching hurricane survivors to various parishes throughout the United States. However, I am a licensed clinical social worker and am concerned about the welfare of a population that has been recently traumatized and is extremely vulnerable.

My primary concern is that any volunteer providing services to survivors be screened first; screen out the sex offenders and other predatory individuals so that they do not have any contact with children and vulnerable adults!

San Francisco

* * *

Colorado Springs has agreed to take 4,000 to 6,000 refugees over the next several months. I am proud of what our local community has done for the victims of Katrina. However, I am disappointed with the little our diocese is doing to help. The idea put forth in the editor’s note is most noble.

It would be best to leave the border states alone in this plan to match up parishes. Not only are Arizona and New Mexico taking hurricane refugees, but they have the immigration problem, which I am sure is already taxing the resources of parishes within the state.

Colorado Springs, Colo.

* * *

Just read your Editor’s Note and thought you might be interested to know that as of Sept. 6, the Catholic Province of Miami, which includes all seven Catholic dioceses in Florida, has joined a cooperative effort to develop a sister diocese relationship with the Biloxi, Miss., diocese. This information was sent out in a news release to diocesan chancellors, communication directors and Catholic Charities offices from The Florida Catholic, as requested by Peter Routsis-Arroyo, president of Catholic Charities in Venice, Fla. and the presidents and executive directors of Catholic Charities within the Province of Miami.

Pensacola, Fla.

* * *

Armed with a U.S. Catholic Directory, one might begin by checking off the names of parishes in various dioceses that are the same as those in the affected areas. So, if you had 20 St. Patricks (and you can be sure there are far more), you could connect the dots between them via regular mail or e-mail. Somebody is bound to answer. This is something like the “sister city” approach. Sister Cities International has already started to help victims of the hurricane.

Orange, Mass.

* * *

Our Franciscan pastor was greeted with applause when he announced that our parish would take up a special collection for the survivors in the Gulf states. This week he is reaching out to two Franciscan parishes he knows in the Gulf region. He also proposed that we adopt one of them as a sister parish to support at Christmas.


* * *

Catholic Charities USA does have a Disaster Response Office, which may be reached through the Catholic Charities Web site or at 1-800-919-9338. It may be the number your reader tried. I am sure they are inundated, so I wouldn’t take the lack of response as a lack of interest.

The Web site for the Biloxi diocese lists all of the parishes and contact info ( and the New Orleans archdiocese Web site ( should be equally valuable.

I’m ready to help you get started here. My sister in St Paul, Minn., is ready to do the same.

Roswell, Ga.

* * *

Greetings from New Zealand, where, even this far from your shores, relief efforts for the recent disaster have been inspiring.

Although I regularly read NCR, I’m not overly familiar with the infrastructure of the church in the United States. However, I would presume that each U.S. diocesan Web site would keep a directory of parish sites.

If this is the case, then perhaps an informal effort could be arranged simply by contacting the local dioceses affected by the disaster (if possible) and a few dioceses outside. Provided the affected diocesan hosting wasn’t local, their sites should still be available, and one neighboring or other parish could be asked to oversee the “matching” of parishes on a reverse basis: Parishes e-mail through if they are able to offer support, and the diocese keeps a simple list on their homepage to show which parishes are matched with whom and which parishes still remain.

Auckland, New Zealand

* * *

I’ve chewed on your Editor’s Note for a few days. The phrase that keeps leaping out at me from Mary Jaeger’s query is “parish-to-parish” as a means of responding to the long-term needs of those affected by the hurricane. What bothers me is that the suffering faces imprinted in my mind are primarily black and more than likely not Roman Catholic. Consequently, I’d like to expand on Mary’s vision. I think our wake-up call demands a response to the Gospel inclusive of every worshipping community in the wounded Gulf area.

As a retired hospital chaplain, I’m no stranger to pain and suffering. But this one has me on my knees and in tears. Hope the responses will bear fruit.

Newington, Conn.

National Catholic Reporter, September 23, 2005

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