Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday at Church   for more pix.  

Today I visited Our Lady of the Isle, a Catholic Church on Grand Isle.   My logic was to make contact with a spiritual community and be with them to get a feel for how the people are really dealing with the actualities and the uncertainties all around them.

Father Mike Tran is the dynamic Parish Priest who was assigned there in July of 2005.  A few weeks later, Katrina came ashore in Grand Isle.  Each subsequent year another hurricane.  5 years later, the BP Oil Disaster.  This island, this church and this priest are what I came to be with. 
Our Lady of the Isle was underwater 5 years ago during Katrina

The picture of the interior shows a modern, open sanctuary.  The roof beams are all that is original.  Everything else (except the pews) is new because the church was under water during Katrina.  The pre-Katrina sanctuary had dark wood paneling and fully carpeted floors.  The church was gutted, the pews restored with weatherproof materials, and the carpeting replaced with weatherproof stone-look flooring.  The walls were waterproof drywalled and painted white to make the sanctuary more open.

New stained glass windows feature an ocean theme and at the vestibule entryway, a beautiful artwork depicts the things Grand Isle is famous for.

New Artwork for entryway to sanctuary.
At every service, they pray to Our Lady of Prompt Succor for protection from hurricanes.  It is a normal part of the liturgy down here.  The people are very joyous, and friendly.  I was welcomed by Fr. Mike and his congregation with open arms.  They want prayers and positive thoughts sent their way.  They have the confidence they will survive this; just as they have always survived.  They depend on each other and their faith to get them through.

Fr. Mike is leaving for a semester at the Washington Theological Union.  He looks forward to his sabbatical and the learning opportunties  before him.  I'm certain he can use a break.  He would like to be with his people during the rest of this catastrophic situation.  I can't stop thinking about this 30 year old priest coming to a new assignment and then getting slammed by Katrina.  His church under water.  Charged with literally rebuilding everything except the frame.  What wasn't damaged by storm waters was blown away by high wind.  He figured out how to rebuild.  He developed a nautical theme for the sanctuary, contracted the work and helped design the entryway.  He navigated the world of insurance claims, funded renovations and kept the positive attitude going.  Of course, the devastation was not just "property" related.  People were evacuated, jobs lost, homes destroyed. 

Through it all the spirit of this church remained intact.  The energy and passion of Fr. Mike is palpable.  His services a joy to attend.  He is, in every sense, a man of God.  He also has a great sense of humor.  Before the service I said, "Father, you have a very southern accent" (he is obviously of Asian descent) he smiled and said, "But son, I've been eatin' this here food for 5 years now."  More later.  There is no you and no me.  It is all WE.  What happens to one, happens to all.  When you cut your finger, I too bleed.  I do not exist apart from all of you.

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