Katrina a Decade Later: Personal Reflections
from Bishop Robert Muench
The Setting. On a Saturday morning after the flood waters in New Orleans had receded, I drove to the residence where my parents had lived prior to Hurricane Katrina (from which they had evacuated with my sister, Mary, and her husband Frank, to Memphis beforehand in the Gentilly neighborhood of the city. I was not prepared for what I saw when I took the Elysian Fields exit from I-610 elevated expressway. I felt as if I had entered The Twilight Zone (science-fiction TV series). There was no sign of either life or activity. No movement anywhere. No people. No electricity. No operating street lights. No sound. No birds. No animals. Deserted homes and cars. Everything looked ash. I drove down Elysian Fields Ave. towards Lake Ponchartrain and got to the corner of Rapides. I slowly took a left turn and proceeded another two blocks before turning right onto Pasteur Blvd. where my parents’ home was located. External water marks revealed it had been engulfed by eight feet of water. I didn’t enter the house, deferring to a later time when two of my sisters and their husbands could join me. When we did, we discoveredeverything inside the first floor of the house was ruined.
The Power of Nature. Nothing previous in my life had prepared me for the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. And while it was the breakdown of the levee system that caused the most significant damage, what decisively came through was the powerful impact of nature and the devastation and disruption it could cause if unabated.
The Power of Love. In preparation for and in the aftermath of the hurricane, our area became a haven for evacuees from the more coastal areas of the state. People here welcomed their new residents, family members, friends and strangers as well. Archbishop Alfred Hughes was warmly received back to our diocese and provided lodging and office space. Pope John Paul II sent Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, then Vatican President of the Pontifical Council, “Cor Unum,” as an emissary who represented and expressed the personal concern, prayers and blessings of the Holy Father to our people, those in the Biloxi, MS, area, and to the Gulf Coast residents so deeply affected in the storm’s wake. St. Joseph Cathedral hosted a special Mass for the evacuees. Archbishop Hughes conducted a weekday morning television broadcast on Catholic Life TV (which he had previously established in Baton Rouge), communicating news and plans. click here to read more
Prayer for Safety in Hurricane Season
O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children.The Sea of Galilee obeyed Your order and returned to its former quietude. You are still the Master of land and sea. We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control:the Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming
lethargy, overstep its conventional boundaries,invade our land, and spread chaos and disaster.
During this hurricane season we turn to You, O loving Father. Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with passing of time.O Virgin, Star of the Sea, Our beloved Mother, we ask you to plead with your Son in our behalf, so that spared from the calamities
common to this area and animated with a true spirit of gratitude,we will walk in the footsteps
of your Divine Son to reach the heavenly Jerusalem where a stormless eternity awaits us. Amen.
Most Rev. Maurice Schexnayder (1895-1981), Second Bishop of Lafayette