Sr. Kathleen helps the victims of tornadoes: UPDATE
By Sue Brown, Coworker
On Friday, March 2nd, after Mass in our Prayer Room in Frenchburg, KY, we all hurried home as there were reports of possible tornados in Menifee and Morgan Counties, as well as other areas in Kentucky and Indiana. We all headed out in different directions, never really believing that we could witness the destruction that we did. This is my story, entitled “A Love Story”, which begins as I stepped out on the front porch after the tornado went through Woodsbend, a small community between Morgan and Menifee Counties.
I couldn’t believe what was in front of me; trees were lying everywhere. I looked across the field and my neighbor’s house was gone; I looked across the street and their house was gone. I turned around and realized that all the homes were gone except ours and one other. I sat down in disbelief. The damage to our house and property was insignificant compared to what I saw.
It was silent for some time and then I heard voices of neighbors looking for one another. I saw emergency lights and heard chainsaws running. People from the community had rushed to our neighborhood to clear debris and fallen trees so that emergency vehicles could get in and search for missing people. Some good people came to our home that night and helped secure our animals. It didn’t seem real for some reason.
The night was long but as soon as there was a bit of light, we had a visitor knocking on the window with chain- saw in hand to help clear the driveway. When I saw him, I was filled with emotion as he had been in the path of the tornado two days before and had lost his barn and some of his livestock. A group of folks from the community had planned a work day at his home which was now put on hold as he had abandoned his work to help others.
While the trees were being removed from the driveway, I walked up to the road which was now crowded with neighbors doing what they could to help. We were without power, telephone service and no one seemed to be able to use their cell phones. I thought about Sr. Kathleen and my friends from Frenchburg but had no way to contact them. However, my fears were relieved as they showed up as soon as their roads were clear enough to get here. They had been hit by the tornado also. Because there was no way to contact us, good friends from Cincinnati drove the many miles on Sunday to check on us.
Because the community pulled together, emergency vehicles were now arriving as well as the hundreds of volunteers that we would see every day for the next couple of months. Volunteers gathered together from all the churches in the area. At least every hour a vehicle would come down the driveway bringing food, water, supplies and offers of help. There was a group that was putting plastic tarps on roofs. Two days after the tornado, a group from Jesus Our Savior Parish in Morehead came out to clear fallen trees. It snowed six inches that day.
Love was everywhere. People were now arriving from all over the United States. There were Christians from so many different churches, as well as Amish and Mennonite communities, Muslims, and Jews. Folks from local Catholic parishes as well as parishes in Cincinnati arrived ready to lend a hand. Some didn’t come representing a church; they came alone. I met a couple that traveled from Michigan who ran a homeless shelter there. They said they felt called to come and help.
Sr. Kathleen and some of us from our Catholic Community volunteered at the Woodsbend Christian Church to cook and serve meals on a few Saturdays for the volunteers. For many weeks, as many as 200 people would be served that day. We were but a small part of this endeavor as the church and its congregation served lunch every day for at least two months for the volunteers who worked tirelessly to help clear debris and secure homes.
The time had come to start rebuilding. Sr. Kathleen was thankful to receive financial support from so many good people as well as offers to provide the labor needed to complete the rebuilding that was desperately needed. Love grows when communities come together to reach out to those in need. And, that’s what happened over the summer. We were blessed to be able to purchase materials to rebuild porches, roofs, garages, and yes, even help build a new house for a family that lost everything. Although much work still needs to be done, the people are going on with their lives with grateful hearts. Many people planted gardens and I hear the sweet potatoes grew as big as footballs. What a blessing!
As our Glenmary Eastern Kentucky Mission moves forward and as our faith calls us, our work doesn’t stop at county lines. We often travel many miles to provide help to the people in the beautiful mountains of Appalachia. We reach out to our friends of the different churches in the area as we know that God’s presence is everywhere pouring out love to all His people. This was the case after the tornado; faith in Almighty God is alive and well, and love is everywhere...we just have to open our eyes and see.
And now, I give you a new commandment; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.