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From: USC Provincial Mark Weber
Date: Saturday September 3 2005 16:54
Subject: Bay Update

Dear Confreres,

Below is a summary of the situation at the Bay and Gulf Coast from Provincial Joe Simon. We keep the confreres and all the people there in our prayers,

peace,

Mark


Confreres:

Monday morning, as I sat in my house, listening to the winds and rains, the lights went out. I turned on a battery-powered radio. I noticed that there was water on the floor. I went looking for the roof leaks. When I got to the front room, I noticed that water was coming in the doors.

I started putting things that I could up higher. At which time my cell-phone decided to take a swim. Not very successfully, I might add.

As the water rose I began a struggle to guide my floating refrigerator. Bad move! In the process I wrenched my back rather badly, from which I have not recovered. As the water rose to my knees, I said to myself: You damn fool, you should have gone to the Retreat Center (across the street): When the water reached just below my hips, it stopped. In a little while it began to recede almost as quickly as it rose. Found out later, the high water was not from the rain but from a wind-surged which was estimated about twenty-five to thirty feet at Bay St. Louis.

While there was only about three to four feet in the house, the Province Office received about seven or eight feet of water.

While the storm died down a bit, some Bay St. Louis residents, who had taken refuge in the Retreat Center, had seen me looking out the door every once and a while and sent a young man to bring me to the Retreat Center. There I found about twenty people, ranging from the teens to the seventies. They told me the water reached eight feet in the Retreat Center and they had to spend some hours in the attic.

An hour or two later, the rain had stopped and we made our way to the residence. We had to use a round about way because the stream (cullee) that runs between the Retreat Center and the Residence.

We found everyone safe there ad learned that the Residence had received about three feet of water. Outside of the water damage, The main damage was to the roof of the Residence (a flat roof) where most of the covering had been blown away. There was little other outside damage. The main chapel also received water damage and some tiles were blown away or broken. There were not many of these. All of the residents of the seminary were safe and uninjured.

Because of the water at the residence, the generator had konked out. later that day (or the next morning) a repair man was able to restart the generator.

One of the "miracles" of the situation was a water flow. There was a pipe sticking out of the ground. On Tuesday, clear water began to flow. This was valuable for washing and flushing the toilets.

Outsiders heard of the water flow and came asking if they could fill their tanks. The answer was yes since we couldn't control the flow and it was the right thing to do to let the water be used.

At the Residence, there were about fifteen or twenty people staying. One of them was the seminary's cook. She found all kinds of ways to prepare meals.

On Tuesday, as helicopters kept flying overhead, one was flagged down. We informed them that we had a member (Fr. George Artis) who would need dialysis the next day. They air-lifted George to a nearby hospital. The next day a FEMA helicopter landed. They took inventory of the outsiders who were staying with us and promised help since we were giving shelter to so many.

A lot of the clean-up work inside the residence was begun. Bishop Terry Steib, SVD (Bp. of Memphis, TN) was visiting us for some "relaxation" from his duties. He found other duties, which were very physical. He spent the greater part of each day, helping with the clean-up. One of the most taxing was ripping out water-logged carpet.

Since we were without communication at the Bay, I went to Immaculate Heart in Lafayette, LA to send out the messages and let all know how things were and what was needed. Besides food and water, one of the greatest needs is for diesel fuel.

All of the members of the Province are accounted for except Fr. Jerome LeDoux. We have no word, one way or another. Although he was in one of the safer parts of New Orleans, knowing LeDoux, if some called and said he needed help, he would go no matter the conditions.

Since being here in Lafayette, we have been able to set up collecting points and sent out a list of the things that are most needed. I intend to return to the Bay on Monday.

Besides the trauma, the physical conditions of the Bay will need quite a lot of time and money to bring back to normal. We have had offers of various kinds from our sister Provinces and the Chicago Province is sending help for the clean-up. The psalms "O quam bonum and jucundum habitare fratres IN UNUM" is surely being shown.

Keep us all in your Masses and prayers.

Joe Si