Eye Witness Account of Hurricane Harvey
Holy Ghost Parish Opens Emergency Shelter
By Fr. Bill Bueche, C.Ss.R.
EVERYTHING is bigger in Texas, and Harvey was no exception: the epic storm drenched Houston with the most rainfall ever recorded by the National Weather Service: an unprecedented 51 inches – nine trillion gallons – of water. Fr. Bill Bueche, pastor and local superior of Holy Ghost Parish in Houston, shares an eyewitness account of the most devastating storm to ever hit Houston.During last month’s epic storm that virtually paralyzed Houston, I felt like we were in a castle with a moat. All the surrounding streets were impassable, like rivers flowing through the city. Chimney Rock, the main road next to our school, was like a swimming pool. The water came within an inch or two of entering the building, but the rain stopped and the water started to subside.
Blessed with no flood crisis on the parish grounds, we quickly turned to helping those in need. We broadcast the news that we were providing food, shelter and basic necessities with texts, our parish messenger network, Facebook and the local Telemundo station.
Some of our parishioners have been trained in Emergency Response. They belong to a group called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and are certified by Harris County as first responders in an emergency.
With the help of a large group of parishioners, we opened a shelter in the old convent building, which presently serves as a ministry center and meeting place for a number of parish groups. Large open areas are serving as a dining room, a dormitory and a place to sort and store donated clothing. We began organizing Monday afternoon and were open for business that evening. We served between 30 and 40 guests that first day, most of whom stayed overnight. A number of our guests are street people, brought by teams of volunteers who scoured the area looking for anyone in need. They arrived cold, soaking wet and hungry. Every fast-food place, convenience store and grocery store has been closed since the storm hit. Grocery stores are opening, but the lines are incredibly long and the shelves are empty because trucks haven’t been able to navigate the streets so the stock could be replenished.
Our first guest came in off the street, weeping as she said, “I am so thankful! I said to God: ‘Forgive all my sins! I’m sorry! Please, please help me.’ Then I looked up and two young men were approaching and said: ‘Come with us – we have food and dry clothes.’ I just started crying and saying, ‘Thank you God. Thank you, God!’ He answered me. He brought me here.”
Overnight, our relief effort mushroomed. With only a few guests, Holy Ghost turned into a local distribution center. The generosity of people is nothing short of amazing. Volunteers from other parishes, a nearby Baptist church, and Sharpstown High School pitched in to help us, as we have one of the only organized relief efforts in the area.
Some of our parishioners live about a mile away in Meyerland, which flooded for the third time in three years thanks to an underdeveloped flood system in Brays Bayou. Residents were stranded in their homes because they couldn’t get out of their neighborhoods to shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Volunteers have been sorting donated clothes – we have a mountain of clothing! – and packaging food to distribute to residents stranded in nearby apartment complexes. Others are loading food, water, clothing and baby supplies into trucks.
Fr. José Chavez has been a real presence in the Command Center. He spent most of Wednesday carrying food, water, clothing and baby supplies to the trucks heading out into the neighborhood, and helped coordinate volunteers unloading donations from generous people who formed a continuous line of vehicles in the parking lot. Fr. José spoke with the workers and our shelter guests all day, encouraging them with his ever-present smile and kind words.
We all appreciate your prayers and concern for us. We are accepting donations to our small effort, the Harvey Relief Fund. Anyone wishing to help can send checks payable to Holy Ghost Church (with “Harvey Relief Fund” written in the memo line) to:
Holy Ghost Church
Attn: Harvey Relief Fund
6921 Chetwood Dr.
Houston, TX 77081
I assure you that all contributions received will be used for the victims of the flooding. Thank you. And please – keep praying.