In honor of the 60th anniversary of their parish, the folks at St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Pasadena, traveled far from their church – to Mississippi to rebuild homes damaged by hurricane Katrina.
A group of 13 adults went from June 9-16, and 33 youth and adults went on a youth group trip Aug. 4-11.
Both groups traveled to Lizana, Miss., and stayed at St. Ann’s Catholic Church.
Father Brian Nolan, associate pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Pasadena, said, “I went there about a year ago and it was pretty devastating – the sheer number of neighborhoods that were hit – if you can imagine driving 45 minutes on a coastline and every house is affected – the shock we had this past time is that there’s still a lot of needs. It’s not something that is going to go away in two or three years; everybody needs help.”
On the June trip, volunteers worked to help a family with a quadriplegic family member whose apartment had been destroyed.
“We were helping rebuild part of her brother’s house so that she could move into it,” said Melissa Serafin, coordinator of youth ministry for St. Jane Frances, adding that volunteers put up drywall, spackled and painted. A part of their volunteering, she said, “was just being present to the family and talking to them.”
They also helped paint another house belonging to an older couple
In August parishioners split into groups and did everything from debris clean-up to painting and drywall; some stayed at St. Ann’s to provide meals for volunteers.
Ms. Serafin said she was surprised how much help still is needed in Mississippi. “I learned there will be many years to come when they will need volunteers to come. It was great for me personally to be able to be the hands of Christ for other people.”
Parishioners paid part of their own travel expenses, and the parish supported fundraisers for the balance. “People donated in the name of someone who went. We did Biloxi bingos and a Biloxi breakfast,” Ms. Serafin said.
Said Father Nolan of the people of Mississippi, “We realized they’re completely dependent on volunteers; they’re working full time and just trying to survive – they need outside support and help and that’s where we as Catholics and Christians are called to show them their love and that they’re cared for and that they’re not forgotten. The further we get away from Katrina, they would want us to know and the Lord would want us to know, that we want to make sure that they’re not forgotten … it’s such a big project … even when everyone else forgets them we will not forgot them, even if it’s a couple of years out.”