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After Harvey, faith fuels Houston fans; World Series is boost city needed

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HOUSTON — Baseball bats and rosary beads were the only thing on Tonya Killian’s mind as she walked toward Minute Maid Park for Game 3 of the 2017 World Series.

A longtime Houston Astros fan and parishioner at Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, Killian was on a mission to buy rosaries custom made for the World Series by members of Annunciation Catholic Church. Read more »

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Bishop Malooly offers education to hurricane-affected students

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WILMINGTON — Students currently attending a Catholic elementary or secondary school in a hurricane-battered diocese may attend a Catholic school in the Diocese of Wilmington as a tuition-free guest for the current academic year, Bishop Malooly announced Sept. 19.

“A number of families must relocate due to the recent hurricanes, and the Diocese of Wilmington wishes to assist any who may come to Delaware or the Eastern Shore of Maryland in continuing the faith and academic development of their children while the rebuild their own lives and their homes,” said Louis De Angelo, superintendent of schools for the diocese.

The bishop wrote to the archbishops of Galveston-Houston and Miami, saying, “We recognize the tremendous work that lies ahead for relocated families, and we wish to assist them in continuing their children’s Catholic school education without tuition worries.

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Houston police sergeant, who died in storm, lived the beatitudes, Texas cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

HOUSTON — The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was filled with thousands gathered Sept. 13 to honor the life and pray for the soul of Sgt. Steve A. Perez, a veteran Houston police officer.

The casket of Houston Police Sgt. Steve Perez is escorted out of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston following his Sept. 13 funeral Mass. Perez died during Hurricane Harvey after driving into floodwaters while trying to get to work. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

Perez, an active parishioner of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in northwest Houston, died after driving into high water during Hurricane Harvey. The 35-year veteran officer was trying to find his way to work as Harvey’s record rainfall flooded hundreds of streets in the fourth largest city in the nation.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said Perez lived with an open, human heart receptive to the Lord, a heart that he gave to the whole church.

“In the recent weeks, the city of Houston and Texas have given an object lesson in the beatitudes to the whole world,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Part of the reason for that has to do with people like Sgt. Steve who always lived those beatitudes.”

Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz of Galveston-Houston presided over the funeral Mass, joined by concelebrants Cardinal DiNardo and retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick attended, with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, to pay their respects to the fallen officer and his family.

Outside the co-cathedral, a large American flag waved high from two fully extended firefighter truck ladders as choral chant filled city streets.

The funeral Mass was broadcasted to allow as many people to observe and participate in the liturgy. Dozens of emotional mourners listened nearby, many bearing flags, pins and ribbons, sharing hugs and wiping tears. Groups of uniformed officers from Dallas to Detroit stood watch on horse, bike and foot. Even nearby construction workers paused to pray during parts of the Mass.

Father Anthony Udoh, parochial vicar at Perez’s St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church and homilist for the funeral Mass, said that Perez had seriously discerned the priesthood, but “decided to serve God and his people in a different uniform.

“We thank God for such selfless love and loyalty to service,” Father Udoh said.

“We pray today that our presence here and our prayers for your family, our love and concern may bring you some peace and consolation,” Father Udoh said to Perez’s family.

After Mass, the service moved to the street outside the co-cathedral, where Perez’s body was escorted by other officers and his son Maverick Perez.

After traditional salutes to law enforcement service, including a four helicopter flyby, a three-volley salute, a riderless horse and final radio call, the co-cathedral’s processional cross with Bishop Sheltz led the casket’s escorts forward to Perez’s hearse. Then, the co-cathedral’s bells tolled as his casket was placed in the hearse, where it would follow a motorcade of police vehicles to his final resting place at Houston National Cemetery.

Born in California, Perez, 60, attended Catholic schools in Central Texas before joining the Army in 1978. After serving in the Army, he became a member of the Houston Police Department in 1982

Perez was the 114th Houston Police officer to die in the line of duty.

Just two weeks after Perez died, two first responders were killed in a car accident as Hurricane Irma rocked Florida Sept. 10. Together, the storms have claimed at least 150 lives.

By James Ramos, staff writer for the Texas Catholic Herald.   

Information about contributing to storm relief efforts is available at the Texas Catholic Conference website, https://txcatholic.org/harvey. Catholic Charities USA also is accepting contributions at https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/CCUSADISASTER.

     

 

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St. Elizabeth Ann Seton opens its doors for Hurricane Harvey relief

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Dialog reporter

 

BEAR — Relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into Texas the last weekend of August, took root all over the Diocese of Wilmington in the days after the storm. One of those took place at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, which opened its doors as a dropoff point for a collection drive based in Sussex County.

“If we believe in God and we are servers, we have to serve the people in need. That’s why we’re here,” said Deacon Cruz Rodriguez. Read more »

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Pope offers prayers for victims of flooding in Texas, Louisiana

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis offered his prayers for the people of Texas and Louisiana struggling to cope with the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey and he praised all those engaged in rescuing and caring for the thousands of people forced out of their homes.

A worker helps an elderly woman from a rescue boat as it evacuates people from the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Harvey Aug. 30 in Houston. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

In a message to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Pope Francis asked that his “spiritual closeness and pastoral concern” be relayed to all those affected by the hurricane and flooding.

The message was sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and released by the Vatican Aug. 31.

“Deeply moved by the tragic loss of life and the immense material devastation that this natural catastrophe has left in its wake, he prays for the victims and their families, and for all those engaged in the vital work of relief, recovery and rebuilding,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Pope Francis, he said, “trusts that the immense and immediate needs of so many individuals and communities will continue to inspire a vast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.”

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Help storm victims: Bishop Malooly calls for generosity in special collection

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Bishop Malooly has asked all Catholic parishes in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore to take up a special collection this weekend, Sept. 2 and 3, to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey.

A worker helps an elderly woman from a rescue boat as it evacuates people from the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Harvey Aug. 30 in Houston. (CNS/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

If parishes are not able to take up the collection this weekend, the bishop has asked that the collection take place the following weekend, Sept. 9 and 10.

All donations will go to assist Catholic Charities USA and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in their efforts to help survivors of this historic storm and the resulting flooding.

“The people of the Diocese [of Wilmington] are exceedingly generous,” said Bishop Malooly. “The Catholic community of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore donated funds totaling more than $1 million to help those in need in the wake of 2004’s Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. We expect the same level of outpouring for our brothers and sisters who are now suffering in Texas.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president, has called for prayers and solidarity with those impacted by the hurricane and tropical storm.

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Texas parishioners shocked by devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey

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Catholic News Service

HOUSTON — With floodwater as high as 20 feet from swelling bayous and waterways, thousands of homes in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston flooded as Tropical Storm Harvey continued to batter southeast Texas Aug. 28.

A man carries his belongings through flood waters in Houston, Texas, Aug. 28. (CNS photo/Nick Oxford, Reuters)

Bishops from dioceses along the mid-Texas Gulf Coast, including Victoria and Galveston-Houston, granted dispensations from regular Mass Sunday obligations Aug. 27.

The storm, which made landfall a day earlier as a Category 4 hurricane, was downgraded to a tropical storm and claimed at least four lives. The record-breaking rainfall, as much as 28 inches over 24 hours in four counties in the archdiocese, was “unprecedented” and “catastrophic,” according to the National Hurricane Center. The region typically sees about 49 inches of rain in a year.

In southeast Houston, Father David Bergeron, a member of the Companions of the Cross order, spent Saturday night in his truck on a highway because of rising floodwater. The next morning, he kayaked the flooded streets to try to find wine to celebrate Sunday Mass for nearby stranded neighbors.

Sitting atop his red kayak, Father Bergeron told a local TV reporter on a live broadcast that he was trying to return home to celebrate Mass. He had visited Galveston for a kayak trip the previous day.

“I tried to go back home for Mass and … I didn’t make it,” Father Bergeron said.

The priest used his kayak to visit a nearby convenience store for supplies as well as wine to celebrate Mass for nearby stranded neighbors.

“I even tried to buy wine right now to say Mass with some of the people who are stranded here, but that didn’t happen because it’s not noon yet,” Father Bergeron said. Texas liquor laws prevent alcohol sales on Sundays before noon. “It’s not that I usually buy alcohol that early in the morning, but I had wanted to say Mass with the few people who are stranded.”

He said he was praying for everyone in need, reflecting on America’s first evangelizers who came by boat.

“I guess this is how the Americas were evangelized as well, with a canoe, and this is a kayak,” Father Bergeron said. “I hope that can bring a smile to a few people.”

“The Lord is alive and the Lord is always with us as well, so I really pray for the protection of all the people. …There are a few psalms that implore for the grace of God and the washing and the rain, but now we have enough rain.”

Thirty miles north of Houston, 29-year-old Eric Robinson spent the morning of Aug. 27 walking three miles in floodwater to morning Mass at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in The Woodlands even though a dispensation had been given.

“I made it in time for the 9:30 a.m. Mass,” he said. “It’s normally a crowded Mass, but there were about 100 people.”

In his homily, Father Pat Garrett, pastor, encouraged people to pray for flood victims and first responders. After Mass, Robinson trekked back to his apartment, wading through waist-deep water.

The situation was not the first time the parish has seen floodwater come close to church grounds. In April 2016, the church’s center served as a Red Cross shelter. Activated again as Harvey pounded the state, at least 22 people took shelter at the church by the evening of Aug. 27, parish staff said.

Sacred Heart Church in Rosenberg, 35 miles southwest of Houston, also served as a Red Cross shelter.

Elsewhere, Danielle Noonan walked through her Sienna Plantation neighborhood southwest of Houston Aug. 27, observing the damage caused by a tornado that ripped through area the previous evening. “I feel like I’m still in shock,” she said.

No sooner than her husband Chris told her to get into the closet where her two sons already were hiding, the tornado touched down a quarter-mile away, damaging at least 50 houses, shredding roofs and windows, snapping hallowed oak trees “like toothpicks” and flipping fences.

The next day, the community tried to recover quickly, but strong rains hampered efforts. Not until a trip to the grocery store for more supplies did Noonan see how shaken by the tornado her two children were.

One of them “was really scared,” she said. “It was hard for him to see his friends’ homes just destroyed. He didn’t want to leave the safety of his home.”

Noonan saw it as a good teaching moment about how to live a life of true prayer and love in the community. In an effort to rally the local churches in prayer, Noonan joined her parish, St. Angela Merici in nearby Missouri City, in hosting the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and praise and worship session on Facebook.

Noonan and her family evacuated to central Texas Aug. 28 under orders of local officials because of rising waters in the Brazos River.

Meanwhile, a social media post about storm damage caused Ashley Ben-David’s jaw to drop.

Scrolling through Twitter, the Houston St. Francis de Sales Catholic School fourth grade teacher saw images of hurricane-ravaged Rockport. The seaside city 30 miles northwest of Corpus Christi was among the first to see major damage from the storm. A photo showed a storied home in the Ben-David family decimated by Harvey; the two-story structure painted in friendly yellow and white was cut in half by winds that topped 130 miles per hour.

At first she denied what she saw in disbelief. “The stairs aren’t in the right spot,” she thought. However, after sending the picture to her two siblings, they confirmed the worst: It was the family home, only Harvey had moved the stairs and trees.

“We’ve had that house in our family for so long,” said Ben-David in the safety of her Sugar Land, Texas, residence. The home belonged to her grandparents in the 1960s, and for the next half-century, played host to “countless summers, vacations, Christmases and Easters,” for the family.

“It’s … heartbreaking because there’s so many memories,” she said. “It was our go-to place to be by the sea.”

The Texas Catholic Conference said the bishops of the state’s 15 dioceses are coordinating relief efforts. The conference requested “people join in prayer for the coastal and inland areas being affected, and consider donating money to local dioceses and Catholic Charities.”

 Information about contributing to storm relief efforts is available at the Texas Catholic Conference website, https://txcatholic.org/harvey/. Catholic Charities USA also is accepting contributions at https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/CCUSADISASTER.

By James Ramos, a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

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Catholic groups are mobilizing to help in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath

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Catholic News Service

Catholic dioceses and charities are quickly organizing to help in the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall with heavy rains and winds of 130 miles per hour late Aug. 25 into the Rockport, Texas area, northeast of Corpus Christi. The National Weather Service said in a tweet Aug. 27 that the rainfall expected after the hurricane and storm are over “are beyond anything experienced before.” The hurricane, named Harvey, is said to be the strongest one to hit the United States in more than a decade and perhaps the strongest one to make landfall in Texas.

Lisa Rehr embraces her four-year old son Maximus as they await to be evacuated Aug. 26 from Rockport, Texas. (CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters)

Catholic Charities USA, as well as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services, announced early on Aug. 26 that they’re mobilizing to help an as-yet-unknown number of persons affected by the hurricane. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has a list of charities helping with the disaster listed on its website at https://txcatholic.org/harvey.

Authorities reported at least five casualties as of Aug. 27, but because of safety issues, not many emergency teams have been yet able to respond to the aftermath and much of the damage is unknown. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state a disaster area, which will allow federal money to help in reconstruction. Catholic groups said they want to help with the immediate needs of the communities affected.

“We will be sending in rapid-response teams to help our impacted St. Vincent de Paul councils and we are coordinating nationally with the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta and (Catholic Charities USA),” said Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Aug. 27 urged “all people of goodwill to closely monitor future calls for assistance for victims and survivors in the days ahead.”

The cardinal also is the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, one of the hardest-hit areas.

“Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in a catastrophic and devastating way this weekend, bringing with it severe flooding and high winds which have taken human life, caused countless injuries, and severely damaged homes and property throughout the region,” said the cardinal in an Aug. 27 news release. “The effects of this storm continue to put people in harm’s way, with horrific scenes playing out all around, such as those of people trapped on their rooftops as water continues to rise around them. Many dioceses of the church in the United States have been affected; many others will be as the storm continues.”

He asked for prayers but also for assistance for those affected. One of the first to pledge help was the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, where Bishop Daniel E. Flores authorized a second collection to be taken up at the diocese’s local churches on the weekend of Aug. 26-27 to send to Catholic Charities in nearby Corpus Christi and “other places hardest hit by loss of power, storm damage, flooding.”

It’s been hard to communicate with other areas, said Bishop Flores in an Aug. 26 interview with Catholic News Service, so it’s hard to gauge the extent of the damage. But he said his diocese wanted to get a head start to quickly divert help where it is needed and as fast as possible.

If the Rio Grande Valley, where Bishop Flores’ diocese is located, was spared the major impact of Hurricane Harvey, then the diocese had a duty to help their neighbors to the north, in the coastal areas of Corpus Christi and Galveston-Houston, which seemed to be hit hardest, he said. Hurricane Harvey seemed to enter near Corpus Christi and affected seven coastal counties in Texas and one Louisiana parish.

“We continue to pray for every for everyone affected by the hurricane and those who are at risk as the storms continue,” said Bishop Flores in a statement.

Though the brunt of the hurricane’s winds has passed and Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm hours after landfall, heavy rains and “catastrophic flooding” are expected for days, said the National Hurricane Center.

“We have to remember … the families affected by flood damage in the next few days in other parts of the state will be in need of relief,” said Bishop Flores. “We will assess better how we can help as we get further information about the needs from the (Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops) and Catholic Charities.”

In an Aug. 26 statement published by the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, Cardinal DiNardo said powerful winds and heavy rainfall have already impacted many lives and homes throughout the region, and many in the southern counties of his archdiocese have already suffered substantial property damage and losses

In Houston, the country’s fourth largest city with 6.6 million residents, many struggled seeking safety in flooded residential streets, which are expected to get up to 50 inches of rainfall by the time the rain stops sometime at the end of August.

“Numerous homes in these communities are currently without power. Several forecasts anticipate additional storm damage and flooding in the coming days, along with high winds and tornado activity,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Up to 250,000 have been reported without power in Texas, a number that’s expected to rise.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in a statement that the archdiocese pledged its support to recovery efforts that will start after the rain and wind subside. 

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Victoria, as well as the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, as they cope with the damaging effects of Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “The people of San Antonio have opened their arms to welcome evacuees of this historic hurricane, and Catholic Charities of the archdiocese has been assisting and will continue to assist in a variety of ways those impacted by this natural disaster.”

Bishop W. Michael Mulvey, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, said he was grateful to the bishops who reached out to him and to his diocese. He said the true damage around the diocese still is not known and officials are waiting for conditions that will allow a better assessment of the damage.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo asked for prayers for emergency personnel and volunteers who are out and about in dangerous conditions and also “for those residing in our archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

       

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