Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana, under the leadership of Sister Miriam Maclean, R.S.M., was on the ground running within hours of Hurricane Laura making landfall on August 27 in Southwest Louisiana.

She was the first one on site Thursday afternoon to assess the situation, and has not stopped in her efforts to serve the broken down and broken hearted ravaged by the monstrous Category 4 storm. “We are here, we are open and we are trying to meet the needs of the community,” said Sister Miriam.

“The Lord preserved Catholic Charities from any major damage for sure so that we can be up and operational,” she continued. “We have a little bit of leakage in the roof, and a couple of roll-up doors got a little damage, but we are blessed. We have a generator, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy are running the office.”

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Sister Miriam is grateful for the outpouring of help from all around the country, even as close as her own backyard.

When the Religious Sisters of Mercy returned to Lake Charles within hours after the storm but could not access St. Hubert’s Convent on Martha Street, one of the newly ordained priests for the Diocese of Lake Charles came to their rescue. Father Joseph Caraway, a priest now for only two months, chainsawed tree after tree creating a makeshift path so the sisters could access their home.

And he didn’t stop there. Father Caraway, a parochial vicar at St. Henry Catholic Church, donned his cassock and walked around the surrounding neighborhoods going door to door delivering food to the homebound. Sister Miriam is immensely grateful for Caraway as well as all of the people who have been calling her with a desire to help. Catholic Charities received their first donation from the Diocese of Beaumont who brought over bottled water and MREs on Friday.

Newly installed Bishop David Toups from the Beaumont diocese had his own damages to assess after Hurricane Laura, but said it was minor compared to the Diocese of Lake Charles. Bishop Provost was on hand to greet Bishop Toups, and he even operated the forklift to unload the donated supplies.

Sister Miriam wants everyone to know that Catholic Charities is open for its regular hours of operation, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 1225 Second Street, if people want to stop by for bottled water or snacks. All are welcome.

“My hope is, since we have so many supplies coming in, we can divvy them up and distribute them to local church parishes so the needs are more readily met,” Sister Miriam said about reaching survivors where they are. “Since we only have so much storage space, we are asking people to send food and supplies to the dioceses of Beaumont and Lafayette, and we will arrange to get everything over to Lake Charles in an orderly fashion.”

In addition to the immediate needs of water and food, Sister Miriam said tarps for roofs would be helpful since there is so much roof damage in the area. People are also in need of vouchers to remain in hotels where they evacuated. A long-term need, she said, will be shelter as so many have lost their homes.

Laura roared ashore near the Louisiana-Texas border packing winds up to 150 mph, leaving no community in its path unscathed. The catastrophic hurricane was the most powerful storm to ever strike Southwest Louisiana surpassing the devastation of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and even Hurricane Audrey in 1957.

Those wanting to make a financial gift to assist the Diocese of Lake Charles in its disaster response may send donations to Catholic Charities via their website, www.catholiccharitiesswla.com, and click the Donate Now button.