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Slammed in 2005 by Katrina, tornado victims hold fast to faith

February 9th, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Vergie and Roger Davis of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have been through natural disasters of near biblical proportions before.

Vergie and Roger Davis, parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, assess the damage to their home, which was destroyed by a tornado Feb. 7. Their home is about five blocks from the church. The Davises have endured a house fire in 1982 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but say their faith is intact. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

Vergie and Roger Davis, parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, assess the damage to their home, which was destroyed by a tornado Feb. 7. Their home is about five blocks from the church. The Davises have endured a house fire in 1982 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but say their faith is intact. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

In 1982, an electrical fire broke out inside their three-bedroom home five blocks from the church, sending smoke billowing through the interior. The cleanup took 18 months.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina breached poorly constructed federal levees, their house, for which they had just made their last mortgage payment, took on 4 and a half feet of water. They got back into their house in 2007.

And, then Feb. 7, a massive tornado swept through the neighborhood while Vergie took cover inside an interior closet.

“I’ve known this for the longest,where’s the best place for me to go,” she told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “I knew the inside closet, farthest away from the interior walls. I saw lightning, and I knew it was time to jump in. I knew I had to hold on tight — you could feel it shake.”

After about a minute, when the noise stopped, she was able to pry the door open despite the debris pile at the bottom of the door.

She looked up and saw the sky. Their house had been destroyed.

The Davises were among 250 families in New Orleans East whose houses were either heavily damaged or destroyed by the powerful tornado, relatively rare in southeast Louisiana. Despite the wide swath of damage, officials reported no fatalities and only about a dozen injuries.

As the Davises assessed the damage Feb. 8 with their pastor, Father Geoffrey Omondi Muga, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope, they reflected on the trials they have endured over the last 35 years.

“Well, I’m a little numb,” said Roger, 74, grand knight of Resurrection’s Knights of Columbus Council 4547. “The only consolation I have is that we’ve been through this before, maybe not in the same way. (After Katrina) we had a house we could still rebuild and still had the structure, but this is a little bit different. I’m just glad everybody’s OK. There were no fatalities. That’s the biggest thing.”

Father Muga, pastor for 14 months, walked through the neighborhood to assess the devastation. He stopped at the heavily damaged brick home of parishioner Carol Adams, who told him the doorbell had rung mysteriously before the tornado hit.

“I went to the door and nobody was there,” she said. “My husband went to the front and I went to the back. All of a sudden I heard a ‘shhhhh.’ I told my husband, ‘What is that?’ We closed the door and came and laid down in the hall. Thank God.”

Asked how she could put this into perspective after sustaining 5 feet of flooding during Katrina, Adams said: “By the will of God. Start all over. Life goes on.”

“As I walk around, I think they are pretty shaken, but they are kind of absorbing it,” Father Muga said. “I didn’t see them in a frenzy. The police and firemen were here. Since they have gone through Katrina, I think they are not so much overwhelmed. But it’s a lot of damage.”

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans was among several agencies partnering with the Red Cross and city officials to establish an overnight shelter at a facility in a nearby park and offer case management and counseling services.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, operated by the archdiocese, dropped off 700 prepared meals and set up distribution of water and snacks at the park. It was considering setting up a distribution site closer to the damage zone.

“We’re still trying to get a handle on it,” said Jay Vise, director of communications for Second Harvest. “Every time I see more footage of it, it just seems bigger and bigger. Meteorologists tell us they’ve never seen this type of tornado. This is a Midwest, giant wedge tornado. You don’t see that down here.

“By the grace of God, no one was killed,” he added. “When you see the destruction from the air that’s 2 miles wide, it looks like somebody came through with a giant pencil eraser and wiped it out.”

As the Davises walked over felled beams, ribbons of pink insulation and shattered glass in their living room, they said they were not sure what they would do next. They do have insurance, but they may not want to rebuild a third time.

The couple said they’ll have to make a decision about coming back and rebuilding, the house will have to be torn down, or finding a house or condo in another part of the city.

The Davises said they will continue to hold fast to their faith. Vergie is continuing to recover from an aneurysm last summer, and their daughter had a recent battle with cancer.

Vergie wore a light blue shirt with a patch honoring Mother Henriette Delille, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a congregation of African-American sisters founded in pre-Civil War New Orleans who educated slaves and cared for the elderly at a time when teaching slaves was against the law. Roger wore his Knights of Columbus cap and shirt.

Vergie got her name because she was born March 24, the eve of the feast of the Annunciation of the Mary.

“Ask God to guide me as to which way to go,” Vergie said.

Before leaving their home, Father Muga joined hands with the Davises and offered a prayer.

“Almighty Father, we thank you for life,” he said. “We thank you for the gifts that you’ve given us to be your sons and daughter. … We lift Vergie and Roger up to you today and thank you for their lives, for sparing them.

“We pray that this tornado, this event, may bring us together as a family, as a community and may also bring us closer to you.”

 

Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Viewpoint: For those who have eyes to see

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The following guest commentary is excerpted from the July 12 issue of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It was written by Peter Finney Jr., executive editor and general manager. It was written before three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, La., but it remains pertinent.

 

• • •

 

The scholar of the law, because he wished to justify himself, asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?”

A week of black and white bloodshed in America — from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dallas — leads directly to Jerusalem and Jericho. Read more »

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When Harry ‘met’ Harry, years apart, under a New Orleans bridge

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Catholic News Service
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — It didn’t start out as a Father’s Day present, but now the tables were turned.
New Orleans-born Harry Connick Jr., 48, took the stage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome May 21, dressed improbably in an academic robe, a costume he never imagined he would wear considering his college career at Loyola University New Orleans consisted of one semester, reverse engineered, that saw him whittle 18 credit hours down to three before jetting off to New York City to begin his life’s work as, he joked, a college dropout.
Harry’s father — Harry Connick Sr., 90, a former New Orleans district attorney — was seated near the stage, surrounded by his son’s wife Jill and three daughters and hundreds of 20-somethings eager to pick up a piece of paper that had eluded one of America’s pre-eminent entertainers. Read more »

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Retired Archbishop Schulte of New Orleans dies at 89

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. He was 89.

Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 at age 89 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa.  (CNS files)

Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 at age 89 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. (CNS files)

Funeral arrangements were pending, but the funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Archbishop Schulte will be buried in a crypt near the main altar of the cathedral.

“I think he brought a real fidelity to church teaching,” New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said of Archbishop Schulte, who was leading the New Orleans Archdiocese when Pope John Paul II named then-Msgr. Aymond as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 1996.

“He also brought a sense of pastoral care,” Archbishop Aymond added. “He was very committed to Catholic education since he had been a superintendent in Philadelphia and knew a lot about it. He also helped to stabilize the finances in our archdiocese. He redid the structure of our administrative offices. That was something that was needed, and I thought he did it very well.”

Francis Bible Schulte was born Dec. 23, 1926, in Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood May 10, 1952, and from 1960 to 1970 was assistant superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia and then as superintendent 1970 to 1980.

He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 1981 and was appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, in 1985. He was named to succeed New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan Dec. 13, 1988, and was installed Feb. 14, 1989.

A year after Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes was appointed coadjutor archbishop of New Orleans in 2001, Archbishop Schulte officially retired Jan. 3, 2002. Archbishop Hughes immediately succeeded him.

“I don’t think there was a time in my life before ordination that I was not thinking of the priesthood,” Archbishop Schulte said in a 2002 interview with the Clarion Herald upon his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and retirement as archbishop. “From a young age, it was always there,” he told the New Orleans archdiocesan newspaper.

Archbishop Schulte grew up in Philadelphia as an only child. His father, who ran the family pharmacy, died when Frank was only 11. His mother, Katharine Bible Schulte, named for Philadelphia heiress St. Katharine Drexel, who founded Xavier University of Louisiana, imbued in him a love for the church.

Archbishop Schulte said one of the highlights of his tenure was proclaiming to Pope John Paul II the virtues of Redemptorist Father Francis Xavier Seelos, a Civil War-era preacher and confessor who was beatified in St. Peter’s Square in 2000. Blessed Seelos died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1867 while ministering to the German Catholic immigrants.

Archbishop Hughes said Archbishop Schulte’s biggest contribution to the Archdiocese of New Orleans was “to bring an organizational structure to the archdiocese. He was very consultative, and he introduced consultative bodies as genuine consultative bodies. He developed the cabinet structure. That basic structure I inherited and did very little tweaking of it.”

 

 

 

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Commentary: When baby parts are worth more than the baby

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The problem is the child.

When you cut through the tortured logic Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards employs to defend the primacy of privacy over the natural law, what you are left with, unfortunately for the nation’s abortion Goliath, is the child. Read more »

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RU-486 abortion pill can be reversed, says physician

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — While the annual number of abortions in the U.S. has dropped from a high of 1.6 million in 1990 to about 1.06 million today, the number of chemical abortions through the use of RU-486 has increased and now represents about 25 percent of all abortions.

Rebekah Chaveste, who had successful RU-486 reversal after taking the pill at a Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco, plays with her son, Zechariah. Chaveste took advantage of a recently developed medical protocol that has enabled more than half the women who used it to stop the chemical abortions caused by the drug RU-486. (CNS file)

Rebekah Chaveste, who had successful RU-486 reversal after taking the pill at a Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco, plays with her son, Zechariah. Chaveste took advantage of a recently developed medical protocol that has enabled more than half the women who used it to stop the chemical abortions caused by the drug RU-486. (CNS file)

But Dr. George Delgado, medical director of Culture of Life Family Health Care, said July 9 during the National Right to Life Convention in New Orleans that the abortifacient effects of RU-486, known generically as mifepristone, can be safely reversed about 55 percent of the time by administering a high-dose progesterone protocol, preferably within 24 hours after a woman has taken the abortion pill.

“Time is of the essence,” Delgado told the 800 attendees at the July 9-11 conference. “This is new science, not junk science. There is a window of opportunity to reverse it. We want to go out and spread the word and tell everyone in the community that we have the ability to reverse RU-486.”

Delgado gave a detailed report on his findings.

Essentially, mifepristone works as a “progesterone receptor antagonist,” which effectively blocks all the effects of progesterone, “which is essential for a healthy pregnancy,” he said. Progesterone works to prepare “a rich, luxurious lining” of the uterus, allowing the embryo a nutrient-rich environment in which to develop.

Progesterone also relaxes the contractions of the uterus and keeps the cervix closed, further protecting the growing unborn baby, Delgado said.

However, RU-486 causes the placental lining to “separate, which destroys the placental connection and leads to the starvation of the baby.”

RU-486 was approved for use in the U.S. in 2008 and now represents about 18 to 25 percent of all U.S. abortions, Delgado said. That figure is about 75 percent in some European countries, which permitted the use of RU-486 earlier.

“The proponents of medical-induced abortion hailed this as a ‘Holy Grail,’” Delgado said. “They were effusive in their praise for mifepristone when it was coming on the market, because, of course, they wanted to take the abortion procedure and the abortion decision out of the purview of doctors and of clinics and make it as personal and private as possible, so a woman could have her abortion in the privacy of her own home without anybody interfering or trying to dissuade her or talk to her rationally about what she was doing.”

Delgado said RU-486 has led to “telemedicine” abortions in which women sometimes “don’t have to physically see a medical professional and can have a medical abortion in their own homes. Your sidewalk counselor can’t be in front of every person’s home trying to tell the women about the truth of the life that’s in her womb.”

“Telemedicine” involves a patient being prescribed abortion pills without any doctor being physically present. The patient goes to a clinic and consults with a doctor via webcam; the doctor remotely activates a drawer in an examination room that opens to provide the woman with abortion drugs.

In the case of RU-486, the patient takes the first part of the protocol at the clinic and completes the second part of what is a two-day regimen at home.

But Delgado said while surgical abortions result in ending the unborn child’s life virtually 100 percent of the time, a woman who takes RU-486 can change her mind and deliver a healthy baby.

The key is receiving a large dose of progesterone, about double the amount of the RU-486, to reverse the effect. Delgado’s studies have shown no harm to the mother or child.

“We don’t have a huge amount of data, but we don’t see that there are any associated birth defects,” he said. “We’re very confident in telling women that right now we have no evidence that mifepristone, RU-486, causes birth defects.”

Delgado has a website about his research, abortionpillreversal.com, and has a 24-hour hotline available at (877) 558-0333.

Delgado also said interviews with women who have taken the RU-486 abortion pill, only to change their minds about having an abortion, indicate they often are told by the abortion clinic staff that their original decision was irrevocable and changing that decision would be dangerous.

Even if the baby is born, they are told, it would have birth defects.

Delgado said his peer-reviewed studies prove those claims to be false. The abortion pill can be safely reversed.

“If our opponents are really pro-choice, why would they refuse a woman a second choice?” Delgado asked. “That leads me to believe they are really pro-abortion, not pro-choice.”

Finney is executive editor and general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

 

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National pro-life leaders fear health care rationing for Medicare patients

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — An Obama administration proposal to pay doctors for “advance care planning” for Medicare patients is fraught with dangers for the elderly and those facing serious illnesses, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

Congress needs to act quickly to protect those patients from making uniformed decisions about their care, Burke Balch said during the organization’s annual convention July 9-11 in New Orleans.

Balch, director of the NRLC’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics, said an Obama administration proposal to institute “advance care planning” is designed to “nudge” patients to forgo life-saving treatment and even assisted feeding by giving them “unbalanced, distorted and even inaccurate information” about their condition and the effectiveness of treatment options.

Citing a 2013 Health Affairs article titled “Decision Aids: When ‘Nudging’ Patients to Make a Particular Choice is More Ethical Than Balanced, Nondirective Content,” Balch said advance care planning is touted as a means of drastically cutting health care costs.

Balch said the NRLC favors advance medical directives, it has developed its own “Will to Live” document, and supports alternatives that “provide truly informed consent to decisions about medical treatment.”

The 2013 Health Affairs article offered advice on how doctors could persuade men with prostate cancer to agree not to undergo expensive surgery.

“If incontinence and impotence are presented as plainly stated, that is, with no detailed description of these risks, men with early stage prostate cancer may be swayed toward the option of surgery,” the article said. “If instead those possible side effects of surgery are presented vividly via personal stories, men may be swayed away from the surgery option.”

The Powell Center report, available at www.nrlc.org, cited other widely available advance care planning materials that violate the principle of informed consent by presenting unbalanced facts so that patients might be convinced to forgo cardiopulmonary resuscitation, IV fluids and medically assisted feeding.

Other materials paint disabilities and illnesses in such “an inaccurately repugnant way” they may convince people that a low “quality of life” is not worth living, Balch said.

Balch said Aetna hired the “Center to Advance Palliative Care” in preparing its advance care planning program. The center reported that its program had resulted in a $12,000 average annual reduction in medical benefits.

Balch said using taxpayer money for Medicare advance care planning was so controversial in the original House Affordable Health Care measure that the proposal eventually was dropped.

But July 9, the Obama administration opened a 60-day “notice and comment” period to re-establish the proposal. It was contained in a large set of Medicare regulations. The administration said it plans to finalize the rule on advanced care planning by Nov. 1 and implement it Jan. 1.

Dr. Patrick Conway, the principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a statement that the administration’s proposal “supports individuals and families who wish to have the opportunity to discuss advance care planning with their physician and care team, as part of coordinated, patient- and family-centered care.”

The proposal says Medicare patients will not be required to have that discussion with a physician or sign any directive.

But, Balch said, “we are concerned about the rationing of health care through government action.”

“We support advance directives,” he continued. “We believe patients ought to have the right to make decisions about what medical care they receive. Our ‘Will to Live’ starts with a presumption for treatment, although an individual can indicate specific treatments that he doesn’t want,” he said.

“Tragically, however, there is considerable evidence that in practice, advance care planning is being used deliberately to nudge patients toward accepting a denial of life-saving treatment.”

Balch said many private insurance companies have hired organizations to “cold call” beneficiaries “to talk them into rejecting treatment,” and they usually “report how much money they are saving per beneficiary.”

“In this context, we greatly fear that this advance care planning will not be balanced,” Balch said. “Despite giving lip service to balance, it will be used deliberately to try to reduce health care spending. We are calling on Congress to block this rule.”

Finney is executive editor and general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

 

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