Pass Christian, Miss., Apr 24, 2011 (CNA) - As long as there is a need, students from Muskegon Catholic Central High School in Michigan will continue coming to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help rebuild homes and lives shattered by Hurricane Katrina.
A contingency of 31 students and eight adults returned during the first week of April to Camp Hope in Lizana, where Project Hope and Compassion, an outreach program initiated by St. Ann Parish shortly after Katrina, is based.
From there, the volunteers set out to destinations all along the coast to help with various projects, including a massive renovation effort at the Pass Christian, Mississippi home of Jeannie Burnam.
“This is our fifth tour of duty,” said the school’s campus minister, Michael Tober, who knew Burnam through her work with Square Foot Ministry, a Christian-based home repair and construction ministry located in Fayette County, Georgia.
“Today, we’re cleaning Jeannie’s yard. She and her husband lost her home in the hurricane and they actually bought this house a few years ago. It needed total renovation. There’s still a lot of significant work to do in the home. We’re rebuilding her kitchen, helping her put up a 100 ft. fence and anything else she needs.”
With the threat of rain looming large on this particular early April day, Muskegon Catholic High students armed with rakes, hammers and posthole diggers scurried around Burnam’s yard working on a variety of projects.
This was the second consecutive year that sophomore Phillip Mesker made the journey from Michigan to Mississippi out of “a desire to help people.”
“It’s a wonderful experience, very spiritual,” said Mesker. “And you feel just absolutely wonderful seeing how people react when you help them out. It’s great to be back helping out and being with friends. We’re doing a lot of cleanup work and rebuilding this year. Last year, we did a lot of tearing down.”
Lori Doriot accompanied her daughter, McKenzie on the trip. This was the first time either had traveled to Mississippi as part of the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Lori said she hopes McKenzie comes away from the experience with a greater sense of compassion and a willingness to serve others and recognize the needs of others like Jeannie Burnam.
“When we walked on to the site today and just kind of looked around, I stopped and looked at all of the Rubbermaid storage containers behind the house and I just couldn’t understand, until I had a conversation with Jeannie, and heard the story of why those storage containers are there. Those are the contents of her home. They’ve been sitting there and it’s hard for her to even go over there and look at what’s inside of them. She’ll occasionally go over and empty the contents of one. It saddens her, so she hasn’t gone back to finish emptying those because she needs to have those happy days. When I heard her story, it just touched my heart how hard it is for them to still deal with Katrina and how they’re coping with it.”
McKenzie, who is a ninth grader, is also hopeful that this whole experience will help her to grow in compassion and understanding.
“There’s a difference between watching this on the news and being here to see what really happened because of Katrina,” she said. “It’s really sad, actually.”
But McKenzie wasn’t sad to sacrifice her spring break to help instead of going on family vacations like some of her other classmates. In fact, she said she’s happy she decided to come and has been looking forward to coming down to help out ever since she learned about the trip.
And that makes Lori Doriot feel really good.
“All of these kids are giving up their vacations. This is their vacation. This is their spring break,” she said.
“It’s awesome. It is amazing how they are treating and respecting one another. It makes me proud as a parent that I send my children to (Muskegon Catholic Central High School). It makes me proud of these young men and women and the way they are handling themselves.”
While Lori Doriot’s heart was full of pride, Burnam’s heart was filled with gratitude.
It has been a long road to recovery for the Pass Christian native, whose family home was destroyed by Katrina.
“I had moved back here right before Katrina to live in my late mother’s house on Hiern Avenue. We spent about three years remodeling it. We moved in at the beginning of August and Katrina hit at the end of August.”
The Burnam’s did not have flood insurance and stayed in a FEMA trailer on Hiern Avenue for about three years before buying their current home on East Second Street two years ago.
For five years, Burnam volunteered with Square Foot Ministry, serving as volunteer coordinator and helping to build 19 houses in Pass Christian, all the while neglecting her own needs.
“My needs have been in plastic boxes and storage units,” she said. Most everything went under water. There’s stuff I haven’t even gone through.”
Now that she is retired from volunteer work, Burnam is more focused on her own needs and said it would be difficult to even begin to try and meet those needs without the help of organizations like Project Hope and Compassion.
“If it wasn’t for the faith-based groups that are coming in and the churches, there wouldn’t be enough help for these people who still need it,” said Burnam, who has benefitted from a steady flow of volunteers.
“It’s very heartwarming. I just can’t believe they give up their spring break to come down here and help. They just all work so really hard and they love doing it.”
And they will keep on doing it as long as there is a need.
“It’s as simple as that,” said Tober.
“There are still people who need help. Jeannie needs someone who can give her hope – hope that she can get her life back to normal, that she can have less stress and begin doing some of the things that she’s wanted to do but hasn’t been able to do because of her own situation. She has given to Pass Christian for years and years working with volunteers and putting up Square Foot homes and has done nothing for herself. This is our way of giving back to her.”
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.
Vatican City, Apr 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his traditional Easter message "to the city (of Rome) and the world," Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace in the Middle East and Africa, and for persecuted Christians around the world. He urged Catholics to "sing and walk, faithfully carrying out our task" of proclaiming Jesus' resurrection to the world.
Below is Pope Benedict's full "Urbi et Orbi" message.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,
Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new:Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalemtwenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heartlives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdaleneand the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peterand the other Apostles.
Right down to our own time – even in these days of advancedcommunications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news,on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone thathad been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers whotestified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, theLord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the twodisciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in theUpper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).
The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculationor mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history,nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indeliblemark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tombhas traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light,that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world thesplendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.
Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on thebranches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forthfrom Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, toevery expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today,caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silenthymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes herpilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universeand above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God,giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.
"In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earthrejoice." To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart ofthe Church, the "heavens" respond fully: the hosts of angels, saintsand blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peaceand gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, theEaster alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from somany painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet itwas for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin,including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own.So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation,it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a timeof suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom,justice and peace.
May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the lightof the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of theMiddle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome thedarkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, maydiplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a resultof the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries ofnorthern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people,work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty isdefeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the humanperson. May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugeesfrom various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dearto them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that thepressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concertedresponse in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort andappreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplarywitness in this regard.
May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples ofIvory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliationand pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. MayJapan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of therecent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have beentested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.
May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those whosuffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May theproclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.
Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeyingahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in whichwe shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is withus until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world,singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there aresmiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is aliveand he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carryingout our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.