LAKE CHARLES -- During the recent rain events of early March that brought flooding to the communities and homes along the Sabine River, Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana has been busy bringing aid to those affected by high floodwaters. They first mobilized to provide food, clothing, and cleaning supplies.
Sister Mary Vianney Walsh, RSM, Director of Catholic Charities, explained, “We cannot restore these people’s lives or material goods to what they were before the storm. But we try to restore their faith by helping them get through a rough time until they are able to get back on their feet again.”
This isn’t the first time Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana has had to step in after a natural disaster. After Hurricane Rita in 2005, Catholic Charities was one of the first aid organizations on the scene and one of the last to leave. Distributing mainly food, clothes, cleaning supplies and construction supplies, the organization was also able to leverage grants and donations to provide gift cards, gas vouchers and other supplies aimed to give people back some normalcy with their day-to-day lives while the clean-up effort was ongoing.
It is this spirit of service that Sister Mary Vianney and other diocesan leaders bring to those who may need assistance in their daily life in communities across the diocese. Catholic Charities is undertaking an outreach program to expand its regular, non-emergency services.
“The Bishop wants to know, are my people being taking care of?” said Blanche Landry, long-time volunteer at Catholic Charities. “There is a common misperception that we don’t go beyond Calcasieu Parish and Lake Charles, that we don’t serve the other parishes of this diocese.
“It’s not the whole story,” she continued. “Sometimes grants and other donations dictate where and when we can go. Our hope is to use the campaign funds we receive to get out of the city and into the lives of people who need us, wherever they may be in our diocese.”
The Return to the Lord Capital Campaign is set to earmark $800,000, or 5 percent of the $16 million total goal, to help Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana expand. They plan to use these funds to work with pastors and parish councils through an outreach program designed to match the right services to the neediest in their parish boundaries. This includes expanding capacity for food storage, upgrading the ability to mobilize services, and endowing portions of the campaign funds to pay for additional staff to meet the growing need.
Sister Mary Vianney shared, “Unfortunately, the need isn’t disappearing. More and more people are showing up, asking for our assistance to meet their basic needs. Day in and day out people need help and we know as Catholics, we want to help them. Our services have proven to be one of the best ways to do so. One of the best ways for people to live like Christ asked us to live.”
The Return to the Lord Capital Campaign is a landmark effort to raise $16 million for priests, parishes and ministries. It will begin later this year. Each parish will take part in the campaign during one of three waves and all have been provided information on their start date. If you want to know more about the campaign, please contact your parish or the diocesan Stewardship and Development Office at 337-439-7400.