Jim Deshotels, SJ ministering during Katrina Wherever Needed ...

"I went to the Superdome last Sunday, [August] the 28th, late afternoon-just as the weather was starting to get nasty," e-mailed Fr. Jim Deshotels, SJ, to worried family and friends. A nurse practitioner who works with the Daughters of Charity in New Orleans, he knew he could be of service during Katrina.

"I had a general idea what I was in for, so I slept late, ate, did wash, etc. Then I got the one Jesuit remaining in my community to give me a ride."

The needs were incredible at the Superdome. "From Sunday to Thursday morning it was nonstop nursing, except for when I got a nap or a short night's sleep ... one night in the middle of our triage area in the loading dock." Deshotels frantically worked alongside nursing home LPNs, volunteers, FEMA doctors, and city health department staff. When the levee broke, they moved patients to a higher spot in the arena.


"One little lady from the nursing home died," wrote Deshotels, " and the docs and I agreed that doing CPR would be cruel as well as probably fruitless, so I gave her absolution and laid on some prayers, and we snuck her out in her wheelchair. We had to park her under the stairs till they started on the temporary morgue."

"Lots of dehydration," his e-mail continued, "eventually dysentery, especially for the babies ... If you can get 4 ounces of Pedialyte down them, they come alive-instant child, just add water. Three births. Three deaths that I know of ... No one was ready for this-it's the Big One we've been afraid of for 40 years, and here we are."

After five days at the Superdome, Deshotels and others were bused to Dallas. "So I'm tired, and awed, and grateful, and only a little amazed," he concluded. "God is good all the time and at work, and I already knew that. It was as hellacious as the TV said, but the TV ... failed to focus on the heroic virtue I saw all around me."

Diaspora

Deshotels found haven at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas and started working with transplanted staff from the New Orleans Health Department. His fellow New Orleans Jesuits, more than 60, had left communities at Loyola University, Jesuit High, parishes, and a retirement home for the novitiate and retreat house in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.

Provincial Fred Kammer, SJ, and his staff, working out of Grand Coteau, first found a place for the elderly Jesuits; a wing of a Bossier City hospital sufficed The rest were sent, in Ignatian fashion, where they were needed the most. Some are doing pastoral work at shelters in Baton Rouge and Lafayette; others are working at Jesuit schools, including Spring Hill College in Mobile, helping teach the many Loyola students who went there in Katrina's wake. The Spring Hill campus recovered from trees felled by Katrina and rallied to greet the new arrivals. Academic Affairs director Dr. George Sims spoke at a hastily organized orientation: "We don't know your courses or majors or where you are in your studies, but we will do our best to make you feel normal again."

Though Loyola University also escaped major damage, it is closed, perhaps until December. Hundreds of its students are being taken in by other Jesuit colleges and universities, including Regis, Le Moyne, Santa Clara, Loyola in Chicago, and Loyola in Baltimore. That's where Loyola New Orleans senior Stephen Pichon enrolled, having escaped by boat from a house near Lake Ponchartrain, according to a Baltimore Sun story.

The generosity of Loyola's sister institutions includes tuition waivers and free or underwritten room and board for Loyola students. " We can expect that these students have experienced significant personal and material loss. They will obviously need our collective support and guidance," says director of counseling services Greg Nicholls at Saint Joseph's University, host for 40 Loyola students.

Secondary Ed

The nearly 1,450 students of Jesuit High in New Orleans, whose school was flooded, are also in need of support and guidance, but virtually all of the Jesuit high schools in the States quickly offered to enroll and house them.

Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston, about six hours from New Orleans, made room for an astounding 420 Jesuit High students, housing about 70 of them with parents of students and accepting others living with relatives in the area. Strake was able to take on such a number by adding a 3:30 to 9:00 second shift, relying on about two dozen Jesuit High faculty who had also relocated to Houston.

Such generosity will ameliorate some of the immediate concerns of those served by the New Orleans Province, but it will take months before the province can begin to reassemble in New Orleans and assess the damage and perhaps years before they can heal scars left by Katrina. Please keep the province and the people it serves in your prayers.  *

Updates on the New Orleans Province are at www.norprov.org .


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