Sacred Gift Returned To Pass Christian Church

Harrison County Sheriff's Deputy Frank Dawson was patrolling behind the devastated St. Paul's Catholic Church in Pass Christian.

"It was a calling," Dawson said.

It was six days after Katrina, when he suddenly noticed a shiny object in the piles of debris.

"It was between about here and 2nd Street," Dawson said as he pointed at the ground.

Deputy Dawson didn't know exactly what he found.

"The only thing you could really see was the cross on it, coming up through the mud," said Dawson. "And the rest of it was totally blocked with the soot and mud."

But Dawson knew the cloth he rescued from the ruins was significant.

"Growing up in the Catholic church, everything is symbols," Dawson said. "Symbols is everything, and picking it up, I knew that immediately it had to go back to the church."

"It's part of the church's renewal, and part of the history of St. Paul's here, and we wanted to make sure you got it back," Sheriff George Payne told Bishop Thomas Rodi Thursday.

On the ten-month anniversary of the storm, members of the sheriff's department personally returned the cloth to the pastor.

"Very surprised, when I received the call yesterday," said Father Dennis Carver. "I wondered what it was about. The sheriff wanted to see me and the bishop. But it was a pleasant surprise."

Father Carver immediately recognized the altar cloth. It was gift from some Vietnamese parishioners.

"Officer Dawson, I thank you. And I think what you have done is not only preserved a piece, a symbol of our church, but I think you have preserved a piece of our identity," Father Carver said.

An identity no storm can ever destroy, and an act of kindness no one will ever forget.

"To do this is a sense of pride," Dawson said. "It's a fulfillment to know that you were able to save something maybe as little as that, but as big as it was to bring back to the church."

Deputy Dawson did apologize to Father Carver for waiting ten months to give back the cloth. He says he kept the cloth in the trunk of his car, then had to have it cleaned, and with so much going on since the storm, he finally got around to returning it.