By ARCHBISHOP Wilton D. Gregory | Published December 15, 2005
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the Archbishop of Atlanta I address this letter to those of you who were displaced by last summer’s hurricanes and have come to the Atlanta area for your interim care. Because I know that this terrible natural disaster has changed your lives forever, I also realize that my words to you of encouragement and support will pale in comparison to the untold suffering, loss and abandonment that you must feel at this time.
Unfortunately, it is a fact that over time society will lose its sense of urgency concerning the seriousness of a problem, even one as critical as you are now facing. As a result many of you feel forgotten and lost. In former years your Advent and Christmas seasons were most likely a time of preparation for the birth of Christ celebrated with love and joy within your church and families. This year I can only imagine the doubt and hopelessness that you and many other Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees now feel. Displaced to a foreign city and far from home, community and friends, you must feel that both God and the world have abandoned you.
As I speak for and represent the entire Catholic community in North Georgia, I promise that you and your situation will not be forgotten or pushed aside. I will continue to make the support and successful resettlement of hurricane evacuees one of the highest priorities of the Catholic community here in North Georgia. I want you to know that the Catholic Church in this area cares deeply for you. We promise to continue our efforts and aim to increase our effectiveness.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta through our Office of Catholic Charities has been helping to coordinate hurricane evacuee relief efforts both at a national and local level since the first arrival of evacuees to our city. Our Catholic Social Services agency, with a 50-year history of providing help to and creating hope for people and families in need from any faith or walk of life who approach our door for assistance, is one of the main partners in this relief effort. At this time Catholic Social Services is working in a comprehensive way with government agencies, other faith-based groups, national charitable organizations and community relief groups to develop a long range program to support you and your families for whatever length of time it takes to stabilize your households with basic needs. We will later provide follow-up services to help you reestablish your family as a unit and as an integral part of our Atlanta community.
Since there are more than 5,000 families still living in hotels and motels in the Atlanta area who are being asked to locate to permanent apartments by February, our office is working closely with other relief agencies here to facilitate the transition of your families to adequate and comfortable apartment housing in the local area. We are also collecting furniture and other items for these apartments so families moving into them can quickly reestablish the atmosphere and semblance of a home.
The Catholic community of North Georgia believes that we are indeed “our brothers’ keepers” and promise to actively show the love for neighbor that Christ described as the second greatest commandment. You are not unwelcome strangers in our midst; you are loved and cared for and we want you to know and experience this through the work of our hands. Your presence here during this Christmas season is a great gift from God in the sense that it presents an opportunity for each of us to see Christ’s face in each of you. We welcome you with open arms and look forward to helping you in the days ahead to restore hope to your lives and happiness to your families.
May God in His mercy grant you a generous measure of His faith, hope and love.
Sincerely in Christ,
Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Atlanta
If you are a hurricane evacuee in need of pastoral outreach, please contact Joe Krygiel, Secretary for Catholic Charities, at (404) 885-7476.