Last weekend, novices at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, made the drive to Baton Rouge to help with the cleanup from the historic flooding. Some of these young men had entered the Society of Jesus just the week before – as the rain was first beginning to fall. Now they were learning firsthand that a Jesuit goes where the need is.
They were not the only people with Jesuit connections showing up in Baton Rouge to help. The basketball coaches and alumni from Jesuit High School in New Orleans brought students to Immaculate Conception Church – a Jesuit parish – to help clear out and gut some parishioners’ homes.
Former Jesuit Volunteer Corp volunteers now living in New Orleans also made a trip to Baton Rouge, ready to tackle the gutting jobs assigned to them by Pastor Thomas Clark, SJ. They plan to return, because the need is great.
As of August 30, the number of Immaculate Conception families who have lost their homes has topped 100.
Fr. Clark has become the leader not only of a parish community, but of a growing disaster recovery group as his parishioners have pulled together to help one another. As the one person who knows everyone in this widespread personal parish, Fr. Clark is managing the process of getting the volunteers and donations to the people who need them. He’s also out visiting parishioners and assessing their needs. Together with a team of parishioners and parish staff, everyone registered in the parish has been personally called to assess their situation and their needs.
Over the past week, the parish hall at Immaculate Conception has begun to look like a warehouse, loaded with bleach, mops, trash bags, disinfectants, drinking water, etc. Now the parish is moving into another phase. Cleaning supplies will be needed for a few weeks more, but other household goods are moving up the priorities list:
Donations of clothing, toys and furniture cannot be used at this time. There is simply no place to store such items.
Volunteers will be needed for months to come, but there are no overnight accommodations available in the greater Baton Rouge area to house them at this time. All hotels and motels not affected by the flooding are filled with people who have lost their homes. If you are local or can find your own accommodations, Fr. Clark suggests you sign up with Together Baton Rouge to volunteer with the gutting.
The Jesuit family within this province has responded generously. Fr. Jay Hooks, who served at Immaculate Conception several years ago and personally knows many of the families affected, has challenged the freshmen at Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas to bring in cleaning supplies that will be delivered to the parish. The school communities of Jesuit High in New Orleans, Rockhurst in Kansas City, Missouri and De Smet Jesuit in St. Louis are raising money for the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish, people they do not know, but with whom they feel a bond.
The people of Louisiana are still waiting for the waters to recede. The historic flooding has been labeled “one of the worst natural disasters in recent years,” and clean-up will take months, possibly years. Many of the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Church have begun that long journey. Fortunately, they are finding that they are not alone.
(This is an update to an earlier story on the historic flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.)