Even as we keep a wary eye on Hurricane Isidore, it is hard to believe that three years ago this month we were reeling from the effects of Hurricane Floyd. Thanks to the encouragement and support of Bishop Robert J. Baker, the tremendous generosity of the faithful of the diocese, and a $51,500 grant from Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston was able to provide significant financial assistance to victims of the floods. We were also able to develop a process for engaging parishes in meaningful disaster planning and preparedness.
The result of the project was relief and support for hundreds of people and a comprehensive Diocesan Disaster Response Guide. We were also able to obtain the Red Cross Master of Disaster teaching kits for all our Catholic schools, grades kindergarten through eighth.
With the help of dedicated parish disaster response committees, many parishes have also developed their own Parish Disaster Response Guides.
This August I was asked to present our process and planning guide to a group of Catholic Charities administrators from across the country at the Catholic Charities USA Annual Meeting in Chicago. The response was very positive.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, dioceses throughout the country, not just those of us along the coast, have a heightened awareness that hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes are not the only disasters we may be challenged to respond to at any time. Dioceses recognize that we must all have plans in place to prepare for, and respond to, a variety of disaster scenarios. Many are struggling to develop an effective planning process and our resource guide was welcomed as a valuable tool.
As we check the days off the calendar and thank God for a so-far-so-good hurricane season, I want to stress the importance of reviewing existing disaster plans — personal, family and parish — and making revisions and additions as needed. We strongly encourage you to discuss a disaster plan with your family. There is a wealth of information related to disaster preparedness on the Catholic Charities Web page, located at www.catholic-doc.org/catholiccharities, as well as links to a variety of other resources to assist families and parishes in developing their own plan.
Each Catholic Charities regional office is prepared to assist with planing and coordinating efforts, and we can put you in touch with parishes that have already developed excellent, comprehensive plans. The Red Cross is another vital partner that can provide valuable training and guidance. Many of the regional disaster committees have already met and all are prepared to move into action should a disaster strike anywhere in the diocese.
Hundreds of parishioners in the Piedmont have expressed a willingness to open their homes to host needy parishioners in the event of an evacuation, and several inland parishes with appropriate safe facilities will open their doors to other parishes in need.
Details about existing plans and opportunities to become more involved are available through your Catholic Charities regional office and parish disaster coordinators.
The contact information is:
Coastal Office — Sister Pat Keating at (843) 308-9361
Pee Dee Office — Diane Bullard at (843) 347-5157
Midlands Office — Tracy Kroll at (803) 254-9776
Piedmont Office — Sister Margie Hosch at (864) 242-2233
Main Office — Linda Collins at (843) 402-9115 ext. 15.
Dorothy Grillo is director of the Office of Social Ministry.