Houston archbishop holds special mass for hurricane survivors


Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza issued a message of hope to hurricane survivors Sunday at a special mass and a service, urging them to lean on their faith during these trying times.

The archbishop of Galveston-Houston, where thousands of people have sought refuge since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast last week, took part in a special multi-faith service at the Astrodome and celebrated a noon mass, specifically for hurricane survivors.

Even non-Catholic evacuees came to the mass, seeking comfort and a message of hope. Ronald Montegut, a non-Catholic, attended the mass with the archbishop. After listening to his homily and the choir, the 30-year-old told the Houston Chronicle that he was moved to tears.

Earlier that day, the archbishop joined Sheikh Mustafa Mahmoud of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, Rabbi David Rosen of Congregation Beth Yeshurun and the Rev. William A. Lawson, former pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, at the Astrodome in addressing the hurricane survivors.

"We are strong people of faith, and I know you can, you will, conquer all of these things," Archbishop Fiorenza told the people.

Emelda Miller of New Orleans told the Chronicle that the service reminded her that God has not forgotten them.

Faith and church communities have played a significant role in helping evacuees overcome their grief and shock and in restoring their sense of hope and dignity. And, it seems, Christians are not paying any heed to denominational boundaries.

Barbara Dowling, a Catholic, has been welcomed by the Houston's First Baptist Church. Though skeptical about going to there at first, she told the Chronicle that she has found both help and comfort there.

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