On August 28, 2005 at 4 AM, my wife, our then 9 month old son, and I evacuated from our house in Arabi, Louisiana. Arabi is a small community in St. Bernard Parish which rests near the Mississippi River. You may not have heard of St. Bernard, but you may be more familiar with our neighbors immediately to the west; the “Lower 9th Ward” of New Orleans.
Escaping the path of Hurricane Katrina, we took our dog, a few changes of clothes, and some personal belongings that we could fit in the car.
Living in an area which is 13 feet below sea level, it was not the first time that we had “run the drill” so to speak. In fact, it wasn’t even the first time that we had evacuated that year. However, this time just felt a little different. Still, as we drove away, we did not realize that it would be the last time we would call that place “home”.
We tried not to think about what could be in store for Louisiana and other areas in the Gulf region, so when we were not praying, we tried to keep the conversation light. We had gone to the Vigil Mass the evening before, and we joked about the choice of the closing Hymn, “Rain Down”.
With all of these things and more in mind, we discussed our options and prayed for guidance. After a couple of days, we decided that we would not return, and that we would head to “Dallas” as we previously referred to this area. My Godfather and his family have lived here for several years, and we had just visited the area the year before. Ironically, I remember that at the time we thought it might be a nice place to live…”some day”. That hypothetical “some day” was now upon us, and while we were uncertain about a great number of things such as housing, employment, and little things like that, we were definitely at peace and comfortable with our decision.
We decided to let my parents know of our plans. My parents, as well as most of my family, also lived in St. Bernard and had evacuated to Memphis. As I placed the call, I was a little concerned about how my mom might respond to us moving so far away. When she answered the cell phone, my mom said, “Hold on. Your dad is on the phone with Paren. I think he’s talking about moving to Dallas.”
On a temporary basis, we all rented a house in The Colony. All of us, my mom, dad, wife, infant son, the dog, and I quartered in the same house. As you can imagine, that in itself presented its own challenges and situations. Although we had made the move, “at peace” with the decision, the tensions and pressures of various sorts began to mount. It was around that time that I read these words from St. John Chrysostom.
The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.
The following weekend, we found our way to St. Francis of Assisi in Frisco. We knew that we had found our new church home as the choir sang "Rain Down." (You can't make this stuff up.)
A month later, we purchased a house in the area, became involved in our new Church parish, and have seen how God has shaped our lives in ways that we did not expect and could only have happened here and now. I don't know what we would do without the friendships that we have made through our church "family". Grateful? Indeed!
Please take a moment to pray for the physical and spiritual well-being of the people in the Gulf area.
Note: The majority of the content in this article was taken from my lay witness during a Stewardship drive at St. Francis. Also, this article has been edited, but most of the content was originally posted several years ago here on DFW Catholic.