Our Lady of the Gulf Parish said thanks to the many volunteers from all over the country who helped rebuild the historic waterfront church with the August 29 dedication of a statue, five years to the day Hurricane Katrina ravaged Hancock County.
Called the “Angel of Light,” the statue sits directly in front of the church and has inscribed at its base the following poem penned by OLG pastor Father Michael Tracey titled “Katrina Volunteers.”
She came ashore with a mighty roar;
with nothing to compare that went before.
Katrina changed our lives forever
with destruction we’ll forget never.
Volunteers came from near and far,
led to us by a hope-filled star.
They brought their love and skill;
their presence, a vacuum did fill.
Strangers became lifelong friendly faces,
helping us mend in our broken places;
letting us know we were not forgotten;
brothers and sisters of the same God begotten.
This Angel of Light, a torch so bright
is a testament to their presence and might;
their love and support helped us rebuild
lives with hope and love filled.
Brian Milner, who served as OLG’s volunteer coordinator following Hurricane Katrina, introduced a handful of volunteers who returned for the dedication.
“This past week, the media has done a pretty good job chronicling the events that happened before, during and after Katrina. They’ve gone through where we were five years ago, where we are today and how much more we need to be doing,” he said.
“Today at OLG, we’d like to cover another aspect, our volunteers. Katrina was an immensely powerful storm. The destruction and chaos left behind were indescribable to people who weren’t hears, but, as the sign down the street at St. Clare’s says, ‘Katrina was big but our God is bigger.’ And that’s true. Our God is very, very powerful and this powerful God not only created Katrina, but he created a movement after Katrina. He inspired so many people to come down here.”
As Father Tracey wrote in his poem, “Strangers became lifelong friendly faces….”
“In the very beginning and for the past five years, we’ve called these people volunteers, but now, five years later, we really call them friends and family” said Milner, echoing Father Tracey’s words.
After the statue was unveiled, drawing gasps and applause from parishioners who processed outside to the church’s front lawn following the 10:30 a.m. Mass, Father Tracey said a special prayer of blessing over it and sprinkled it with holy water.
In his blessing, Father Tracey said, “We gather on ground destroyed by Katrina five years ago, yet holy ground. Now we gather on this site where we celebrated Mass following Katrina. We gather to remember the power of water, as well as the power of hope. We gather to remember the destruction as well as the power of faith. We gather to remember the power of prayer as well as the power of love.
“We thank you Lord for watching over us in our recovery. We thank you for the hundreds of volunteers who came to give us a hand up and show us that we were not forgotten, to show that there is still kindness, goodness, generosity and love in our fractured world. We gather today not only to remember our pain and loss, but also our strength and resolve. We gather today to remember not only our brokenness, but also our healing. We gather today to reflect, thank and show our appreciation for the many, many volunteers who came to us as angels of light during our darkest hour.”
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper from the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.