A statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is seen outside of St. Pius X Church in Ragley, La., Sept. 1, 2020, with signs of damage from Hurricane Laura. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, requested Sept. 3 that bishops across the country consider taking up a voluntary special collection for the humanitarian, long-term recovery and church needs arising from the increasing number of natural disasters in the United States. (CNS photo/courtesy Father Jeffrey Starkovich, St. Pius X Church)

As our nation and world continues to address a variety of extraordinary challenges such as a global pandemic and racial justice and all of the many aspects of life which they impact, many people are now also dealing with natural disasters.

Minimally, we are called to pray for appropriate responses to the many societal and human needs. Practically, for those who are able, we are also called to extend care and compassion to those who are in need. In recent days, Archbishop Jose Gomez, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called for a National Collection to help provide needed humanitarian aid to the people in western Louisiana and eastern Texas who have been so strongly impacted by Hurricane Laura.  This collection will also enable dioceses in the western United States where large numbers of wildfires are burning at a pace never before seen.

In recent days, I have spoken personally with bishops in Louisiana, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington about their needs in the wake of these natural disasters. Certainly, the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana has more damage and needs than any other diocese as the eye of the hurricane and its bands of winds, rain and flooding piled up tremendous damages. 

You can read the letter of Bishop Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles along with the letter of Archbishop Gomez here, Hurricane Laura Collection. Similarly, both the Dioceses of Beaumont in Texas and Alexandria in Louisiana incurred serious damages as well. (Note: both bishops of Beaumont and Alexandria were literally in their first days on the job when Hurricane Laura hit!) 

People in San Francisco are seen at Dolores Park Sept. 9, 2020, under an orange sky darkened by the smoke from wildfires. (CNS photo/Stephen Lam, Reuters)

At the time of this writing, the Diocese of Monterey, California seems to have been most affected by the wildfires on the west coast. It is fair to say that we are experiencing one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, and there are still months of this season to go … In one day alone, Labor Day, more acres burned in the state of Washington than the entire fire season last year.  While most of these fires are burning in remote, mountainous areas, there are still many who have lost homes, businesses, and a few lives. For the most part, I’m told Catholic Charities and other agencies and parishes are responding to the humanitarian needs as best they can.

Many people and families are evacuated and or displaced. Power is out for thousands. Basic necessities of life such as food, water, medicine and housing are needed immediately, while the infrastructure will take months if not years to repair or replace. In addition to those directly impacted, please continue to pray for the firefighters, utility crews, and the many volunteers and other first responders caring for people in need.

While it is up to each local bishop to decide whether or not to take up this national collection, it is my hope that all will do their part, to the best of their ability. Many parishes now have on-line donation options, and will hopefully add one for this collection. Please be looking for information from your local parish as to how you can help respond to the call for assistance. 

Should you not have any other option, please keep in mind that you can make donations directly to Catholic Charities USA.

Recognizing that many have their own needs at this time, please consider what you can do to assist our brothers and sisters. I’ll leave you with these words of St. Paul (2 Corinthians 9:8):

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

Peace, and thank you for your kindness!