One of the big stories concerning Katrina has been the spiritual fallout: the effect on people’s faith and how churches are coping. In yesterday’s New York Times, they look at how people gathered for worship on the first Sunday after the devastation.
Most interesting, from my point of view, was the information on the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Archbishop Alfred Hughes sees two challenges before him: (1) Rebuild his archdiocese, essentially from the ground up. Not all parishes and schools and other institutions have been destroyed, but some have and many of the rest are undoubtedly damaged, some heavily. (2) Minister to his flock that has been dispersed into refugee centers around the country.
No religious institution faced as daunting a challenge as the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Most of its parishioners have scattered, and half of its 300 priests are unaccounted for. But Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, the spiritual leader of 500,000 people in one of the most heavily Roman Catholic regions in the United States, said he was preparing to put together his archdiocese “in exile.”
… Archbishop Hughes is trying to send priests in pursuit of what he described as a diaspora that has emptied half of the parishioners of the eight civil parishes in Louisiana that his archdiocese covers. Priests have been sent to Atlanta, Dallas and Houston and the Louisiana cities of Alexandria and Lafayette to minister to evacuees from New Orleans.
No doubt most of those unaccounted for priests are just fine and have been caught up in the chaos and lack of communication. They will probably straggle in over the coming days. Some, however, may have died in the storm itself, the flooding, or the violent aftermath.