Thanksgiving was a time to thank God for all of our blessings, and you made a very specific point of giving thanks to the people of the Archdiocese of New Orleans who responded so generously to the call for hurricane relief donations. Can you give us an update on the donations?
I’m sure everyone realizes how devastating the 2017 hurricane season was in Texas, southwest Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico. I asked Catholics to offer prayer and financial donations so that we could distribute the funds to the dioceses most affected. Many gave through their parish; others sent their gifts to my office. As of last week, we have collected $2,120,644.94 in hurricane relief funds, which is a truly amazing amount. Some funds are still coming in. I’ve been able to apportion the relief money to the dioceses that were the hardest hit. At the meeting of the U.S. bishops last month in Baltimore, Archbishop Robert Octavio Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was overcome with appreciation for what the people of New Orleans have done for his people. He told us the infrastructure of Puerto Rico and the islands needs so much rebuilding, but his people have not lost faith or hope. Other bishops we assisted also expressed their profound gratitude.
What impresses you most about the response?
I think our Catholic people are extremely generous and have big hearts filled with charity – that’s obvious – and I also believe in New Orleans, we have been there. Our experience with Katrina motivates us to give in order to be in solidarity with the people who have now gone through a similar experience. When we reach out to help, as we know, we’re not only giving people a gift to help rebuild, but we’re also expressing through our gift our desire to reassure them that God is faithful, that we see in them the face of Christ and that we are praying for them that they do not lose hope.
Our help went beyond financial donations, correct?
Yes. Second Harvest Food Bank, which is the archdiocesan food bank serving 23 civil parishes in south Louisiana, collected and distributed food, water and disaster supplies to the victims of the major storms. We delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds of supplies to victims of Hurricane Harvey in southwest Louisiana and Texas, and we also sent financial contributions to them. Many truckloads of aid were sent to Florida victims of Hurricane Irma and also to Puerto Rico residents who are dealing with the long-term impact of Hurricane Maria. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans sent staff members to help with disaster recovery efforts in Beaumont and Houston. We provided a case worker here to help 10 families from Texas, and we are trying to get them back in their homes. We also funded a badly needed case manager for Catholic Charities in Lafayette, where some hurricane victims wound up. Needless to say, our parishes, schools and Knights of Columbus councils went far beyond monetary donations. They sent volunteers to gut houses and clean up and deliver supplies. Many huge trucks packed by several parishes were sent to help those in this time of tragedy. It was an amazing, joint effort.
Did that make you feel blessed at Thanksgiving?
Yes. When we talk about stewardship, we’re saying that we realize that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God. Does God expect a gift in return? The answer is yes. He expects us to use our gifts in order to show our life of discipleship, to use our gifts to share with those who are in need. The Lord does expect us to give back, not so much to him, but to his church and to the people of God, especially those who are hurting. My prayers and heartfelt gratitude go out to everyone who answered the call!
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.