By Walker Wooding
“Pray that the storms, weather-related and the storms of life, will pass us by, or that we will have the ability to deal with storms that come our way.”
That’s the way Father Jim McClintock, pastor at St. Mary Parish in Fannett, is preparing parishioners and himself for the new hurricane season following Harvey last year. Father McClintock’s parish was one of the hardest hit by flooding.
Father McClintock was resting in the rectory, optimistic that the storm would pass through. When he awoke the morning of Aug. 29, his feet splashed water as they hit the floor. A parishioner checking on him led to his rescue and offered refuge.
Harvey’s more than 50 inches of record-breaking rainfall and its catastrophic flooding took homes and belongings away from thousands. Looking back at the storm, Southeast Texans are making preparations for the 2018 hurricane season.
Vivian Sneed, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Port Arthur, will have an evacuation plan, pay closer attention to the weather and listen to advice of her children. They pleaded with her to evacuate. Instead, she stayed behind.
A helicopter picked her up after floodwaters forced her to leave her home.
Jay White’s plans include having a mover on speed dial, having a place to stay and storage for belongings and flood insurance. White is a parishioner at St. Jude Thaddeus in Beaumont.
Though White’s family worked to pack items, they were unable to get many of their belongings out of the home because of the quickly rising water.
Carol Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, purchased flood insurance and has her “go boxes” ready for important documents, mementos and emergency supplies.
In the meantime, her agency is hiring 24 disaster case managers to help families with their Harvey recovery.
“The most active role for Catholic Charities agencies is in long-term recovery,” Fernandez said. “So our work for the Harvey disaster is truly gearing up now and will continue for the next 24 months.”
Father McClintock, Sneed, Fernandez and White have leaned on faith and prayer to help them through Harvey and its aftermath and ready themselves for future storms.
“Pray that the Lord will use us to be His hands of help to our family, neighbors, or whomever we encounter,” Father McClintock said. “Next, appreciate those that the Lord sends to help and then be an answer to someone else’s prayers.”
After staying with the parishioners, Father McClintock moved in with Father Stephen McCrate, pastor at St. Louis Parish in Winnie.
“The fraternity of the priesthood continues,” Father McClintock said, eyeing a return back to the rectory at St. Mary in July.
As for the church building at St Mary, there’s still a long way to go in completing repairs, he said. And he’s grateful for all that people have done to help with repairs, including the Knights of Columbus and people from all over the United States.
Prayer was the lifeline that Sneed depended on after putting on a lifejacket to leave the rising water in her home. With floodwater seeping into her truck, she drove to a parking lot on higher ground. She parked the truck and waited.
“Lord,” Sneed recalled praying, “I know you’re going to see me through this.”
A helicopter landed a block from her location. She waded through chest-high water to reach it. The aircraft lifted off.
That flight began what became a 10-month odyssey to get back into her home. She has stayed in shelters, hotels and homes of friends and family.
“You have to do what you have to do in times like these,” Sneed said.
Sneed didn’t have flood insurance to help her rebuild. She’s looking to hire someone to complete the sheetrock work that has yet to be finished. Sneed aims to complete the rest of the work gradually.
“I want to get my house repaired enough so I can move in and go on with my life,” she said.
While Sneed works on moving back into her home, White and her husband, Dennis, moved back into theirs in April. They stayed at dorm-style apartments at Lamar University while their house was being repaired.
Her family lost 95 percent of what they left behind in their home.
“It was awful,” White said. “Everything was broken. The wall of debris was almost as high as the six-foot fence that surrounded the house.”
But the house was insured. It was a lesson learned from a flooding experience in 1994 when the house wasn’t insured.
“People say that insurance is too high,” White said. “When you’re looking at $100,000 in repairs, hundreds of dollars per year in insurance is not too high.”
White prays the hurricane prayer every day, referring to the “Prayer for Safety in Hurricane Season” written by Bishop Maurice Schexnayder in 1957.
“The way I look at it,” she said while watering her lawn with a garden hose because of the recent lack of rain, “I don’t get afraid when it rains. I can’t live that way. I have to go on faith.”