My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Hurricane Sandy has scarred the lives of many families in our Diocese. Even after a year, some of our families have yet to move back into their own homes. Others families are permanently displaced. The trauma that was inflicted was financial, physical and psychological. We were all impacted, but to some, the super storm was devastating.
This anniversary offers us the opportunity to give thanks to those who came to our aid, to determine what has yet to be accomplished, to assess what we can all do better in the future and to make a new beginning.
In the days and weeks after Sandy, I visited the Rockaway Peninsula. The mountains of debris, the houses washed away, the stranded cars and sand made me wonder if we could ever recover. The men and women of the Sanitation Services, along with the NYPD, FDNY and EMTs, worked both throughout the storm to keep us safe and then feverishly afterwards to restore order. They are unsung heroes. The Emergency Service workers and volunteers from across our city and nation reminded me of the great American spirit to adapt and overcome.
As Bishop of Brooklyn, I am especially grateful to our priests whose leadership was critical to the local communities most impacted. Though many of them had lost their own homes, they soldiered on, attending to the needs of others. Words will never express the extent of my gratitude and admiration for each and every single one of these men.
The generosity of the people of our Diocese was most impressive. Through our diocesan collection, we raised over $1.1 million in aid that was distributed to parishes and those in need. From Canarsie to Far Rockaway, Gerritsen Beach to Howard Beach, despite devastation to those directly impacted, parishioners opened their wallets and leant a helping hand to their neighbors. Believers and non-believers, New Yorkers and Mid-Westerners, Southerners and Canadians all came together to assist those most in need.
We were all primarily concerned with the needs of our children. Ensuring that they had the resources to help restore normalcy was of paramount importance. I am grateful to our Futures in Education Foundation that provided $1.5 million in scholarship aid to families that were impacted.
Our elected officials were immediately on the scene, yet it seems that government has been slow to disburse all the necessary funds to rebuild. New Jersey had the moniker “Stronger Than The Storm,” and much of the Jersey Shore has already been rebuilt.
The grinding bureaucracy that is New York, however, leaves much to be desired. The symbolic failure to rebuild the Rockaway Boardwalk in time for the summer season speaks volumes of how our government needs greater flexibility to serve its citizens better in times of crisis.
We as a Church are not equipped to be an emergency provider. At the same time, our churches became the focal point for the recovery efforts in many parts of Brooklyn and Queens. I am proud of our Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, which has distributed over $2 million to families in distress. St. Francis de Sales parish in Belle Harbor was nationally recognized for the service it offered to the residents of our city. The reality is that we should be proud of what our parishes did in Red Hook, Howard Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Canarsie, Coney Island and Rockaway Beach. Also, a full financial accounting of all funds received and disbursed will be forthcoming.
I have charged Msgr. Michael Reid, Vicar for Financial Administration and Economy, with ensuring that we have an up-to-date and comprehensive Crisis Management Plan. We have to examine how we as a Diocese can be more prepared to be of assistance as a resource to those in need.
In the coming weeks, I will be installing new pastors in some of our hardest hit communities. I am especially grateful to their predecessors who weathered the storm and were called upon to make very difficult decisions to assist all those in need. These new pastors must build on the great priestly example of their predecessors and colleagues who were a model of shepherds who “laid down their lives for the sheep.”
As we commemorate one year following Hurricane Sandy, our City and Diocese puts out into the deep. We were scarred; however, we are not broken.
We put out into the deep, confident that the Lord is beside us, as we continue to rebuild and renew our communities.