BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Images of Hurricane Michael’s destruction stir up painful memories for members of a Biloxi church.
St. Michael’s Catholic Church was just one of many churches heavily damaged when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast.
Though the devastation of Michael is hundreds of miles away, it sits heavy on the hearts of parishioners at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church.
“They need to know that we care, and that we love, and that we understand because we’ve experienced it," said the Rev. Gregory Barras during Sunday’s Mass.
Thirteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina caused millions of dollars worth of damage to St. Michael’s. The stained glass windows were shattered, and the pews were destroyed. The rebuilding process was a test of faith.
“With the grace of God, and the love of lots of people from all over the country, St. Michael’s was able to start the slow, but hopeful process, of getting ourselves back together," said Barras.
On Sunday, the congregation’s thoughts and prayers focused on what they know lies next for victims of Hurricane Michael.
The readings were fitting as Barras encouraged the church to do what they can to help those in need as others helped them after Katrina.
“As the scriptures called us to to be aware of through wisdom, we grow up through our own suffering and pain. Knowing there’s a solution, there’s hope," he said. "That motivates us to want to desire to enter into their suffering and pain.”
Faith Bontrager knows firsthand of that. She now calls the Coast home after she came here as a volunteer to help Katrina victims.
“I think in addition to the practical help that they’re sending, they’re also sending their love. They’re also saying we stand with you. You’re not alone. And I think that will mean a lot. I hope so," said Bontrager.
“It is difficult in the moment, and you think nobody else, because your world is pretty cut off - does anybody know? Does anybody care? And there are lots of us who do care," said Barras.
Many who care and personally know how much that can mean when all else is gone.
Saint Michael Church is collecting gift cards and monetary donations for Michael victims. Those interested can bring their donations to next week’s Mass or drop it off at the church office on First Street in Biloxi.
People can also drop donations off at any local office of the Catholic Charities of South Mississippi or mail them to:
Attn: Hurricane Relief
1450 North Street
Gulfport, MS 39507