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From: Renee Chvalovsky
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 9:03 PM
Subject: Bay St. Louis Update


Armed with everything from clothing to food and water to medical supplies, 11 members of the Chicago Province set out from Techny on September 4 to deliver much-needed supplies and relief assistance to the members of the SVD community at Bay St. Louis reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Members of the USC relief team included Techny residents Jim Bergin and Adam MacDonald; Novices Anh Dinh, Kien Kieu, Milan Knezovic, Dominic Pham, and Nam Vu; Theologate members Abelardo Gabriel and Phong Nguyen; and Bro. Vinh Trinh from St. Anselm's Parish. Bro. Jim Heeb, member of the SVD community at Bay St. Louis who'd been visiting Techny and was originally scheduled to return to the Bay the very day Katrina struck, also joined the group.

Following a brief tour of the damage to St. Augustine's and the surrounding area, the USC relief team went right to work assisting with cleaning mud off of the chapel floor, removing carpets in the SVD residence, trimming and disposing of downed trees and branches, and repairing community vehicles that had been damaged by the floodwaters. During four full days at Bay, the relief team helped move the cleanup and recovery effort forward significantly under the capable direction of Southern Province Vice-Provincial Jim Pawlicki.

Sitting on high ground and solidly constructed of brick, the SVD residence and chapel at Bay St. Louis withstood the hurricane's winds amazingly well with the primary damage caused by nearly three feet of floodwater that left behind layers of mud and muck and an unmistakable odor while also rendering the community's vehicles useless. Yet to be determined is the extent of damage to the roof of Christmann Hall as well as to the still-new Retreat Center.

Compared to the rest of the town of Bay St. Louis, St. Augustine's fared quite well in spite of the direct hit from Katrina. The U.S. 90 bridge between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian is no more; Beach Boulevard is in ruins as are most of the buildings and properties once lining it; and virtually everywhere are piles of debris and personal belongings deposited at random by the storm surge and resulting floodwaters.

With members of the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard lending their assistance to local authorities, Bay St. Louis appears strangely calm and orderly in spite of the devastation. And although many uncertainties lie ahead for those who call Bay St. Louis home, it's clear that the will to rebuild is very strong.

The USC relief team returned safely home to Techny on September 11, a little tired and a little sore, but no worse for wear. As the members of the team reflected on their experience at the Bay, many agreed that what had made the trip meaningful was not so much the physical assistance we offered but the care and support we gave and received as members of one SVD family.

Special thanks go to Provincial Mark Weber, Vice-Provincial and Mission Office Director Dennis Newton, Mission Office Treasurer Dave Gallagher, and numerous members of the Mission Office Staff as well as the Divine Word College Epworth community for their help in making arrangements and gathering supplies for the trip to Bay St. Louis and the many generous donations from parishioners.

And as was communicated to the members of the relief team so many times during the week we spent at the Bay, the members of the Chicago Province have the deep and lasting gratitude of their SVD brethren in the Southern Province and specifically at St. Augustine's for standing in solidarity with them during this time of trial.

Written by: Fr. Adam MacDonald, SVD

Chicago Province