Answering a different call
The Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas respond with warmth and generosity when a need arises. This was evident after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the plight of Vietnamese refugees. The United States Catholic Conference issued a call for help in welcoming the refugees. Bishop Warren Boudreaux established the Diocesan Resettlement Office and appointed Father William Manger as director on June 5, 1975.
The old St. Anthony Cathedral High School was quickly gotten into shape as a “halfway” house – a stopping point for the Vietnamese after their leaving the camps and before settling in the area. During the first 12 months, dozens of Catholic and Protestant churches and many individuals rallied to form an ecumenical effort. Almost 1,200 refugees were settled in Southeast Texas in that year. More followed. Funds for the operation of the Resettlement Office were provided by the U.S. Catholic Conference.
John McCarthy, the USCC Migration and Refugee Services director, visited Beaumont and complemented the work of Father Manger and the staff saying that it was a model program for other areas as well.
In addition, the New York Times and Texas Monthly both recognized the work of the people in Southeast Texas.
In the New York Times (Dec. 28, 1975), a feature by Frances Fitzgerald called the resettlement work in Beaumont miraculous. She wrote, “The Catholic Diocese of Beaumont has responded to the Church’s appeal of resettlement on behalf of the Vietnamese with huge energy and generosity.”
In the June 1976 Texas Monthly, the article, titled “The Newest Americans,” said that there were more refugees in Jefferson County than in entire states like North Carolina, New Jersey or Massachusetts. It also said, “… the Diocese of Beaumont