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  April 3, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 7Oakland, CA

articles list

Danville parishioners help build homes for Katrina survivors

WAGES trains women for eco-friendly cleaning co-op

Crisis Nursery
to benefit from
‘miracle makeover’

Homeless families at greater risk as shelters close in Contra Costa

Thousands to join the church in U.S. at Easter vigil services

Pleasanton woman takes journey to baptism

EWTN to broadcast
Holy Week Masses with Pope Benedict

Tea rose honors
Pope John Paul II

Palestinian diplomat urges U.S. to support two-state solution

Afghan court dismisses Christian facing death for conversion

Cardinal Levada
takes possession
of Rome church

Church’s credibility
key in AIDS work



A pastoral call for justice for immigrants

•In immigration law, ‘legal,’ ‘illegal’ distinctions fairly recent

Lenten reflection
Like Simon of Cyrene, we can be called to carry the cross


Father Bernard Donaghey, SVD
Former Oakland pastor
dies in southern California
























Danville parishioners help build homes
for Katrina survivors

Nearly 70 volunteers from a newly formed ecumenical coalition of 14 East Bay churches arrived at the parking lot of Danville’s St. Isidore School one Saturday morning last month carrying hammers, safety glasses and work gloves. Their goal was to build the wall frames for a home earmarked for a Katrina-survivor family that has resettled in McComb, Mississippi. Forty-eight of the builders were from St. Isidore’s.

The volunteers, including 48 from St. Isidore Parish, completed the job in a record four hours, just in time to celebrate the fruits of their labor with a noon barbecue hosted by parishioners.

The March building party was one of 11 similar events that took place in church parking lots from Moraga to Milpitas last month, resulting in the completion of frames for 15 homes. These “houses in a box” are now on a train headed for McComb, where other volunteers will complete the construction work this month.

The building and barbecue fest at St. Isidore was part of Operation Katrina, a project spearheaded by Fred Hull, a member of Community Presbyterian Church in Danville. Hull visited McComb twice last fall with the church’s mission director, the Rev. Dick Sumner, to find out how their church could help survivors of both Katrina and Rita. McComb is 90 miles north of New Orleans.

They selected McComb because a church member had relocated there to work with the Voice of Calvary, a southern Christian redevelopment project.

During each visit, Hull says he became “pretty bummed out” by the situation. The devastation was overwhelming. Along the Gulf coast of Mississippi from Waveland on the west to Pascagoula on the east, Katrina had completely destroyed or seriously damaged everything in its path.
Approximately 1,000 churches were severally damaged or totally destroyed. Over 100, 000 homes were demolished.

More than 400 evacuee families from Pike County and the town of McComb are currently living in temporary facilities and in desperate need of permanent housing. A local ecumenical group asked the McComb Voice of Calvary chapter for help with housing after the City of McComb had donated a four-acre parcel of land that is large enough for 16 homes.

Hull and his associate pastor promised to help the group fill up the lot with homes. Once back in Danville, though, the men knew they were going to need many hands and much money. So Hull decided to invite other East Bay churches to become a part of the project.

Because he and his wife, Jan, are friends with some St. Isidore parishioners, he approached them. They put him in contact with the parish council, which in turn, invited him to present his idea at one of their meetings.

“We decided to join in,” said Deb Kennedy, a council member. Kennedy and parishioners Tom Platner and Kelly French became parish coordinators for the project.

Within a month, the parish had raised the $10,000 start-up funds it takes to pay for a frame and the foundation. “Money is still coming in,” said Kennedy. Kids at the parish school contributed $1,000 by sponsoring a uniform-free day, at $2 per child.

Platner, a veteran of 21 years in commercial construction, said the parish hopes to raise a total of $50,000. It takes $40,000 for a completed house. Platner hopes to be able to give $10,000 to the local parish church in McComb to help pay for its reconstruction. The church, built in 1877, was badly damaged by Hurricane Rita.

All in all, Operation Katrina has raised close to $500,000 from this newly-formed East Bay umbrella of churches. There have been many in-kind donations of windows, siding and lumber as well, said Hull. St. Isidore’s is the sole Catholic parish among the 14 participating congregations.

A few local volunteers from the March construction marathon are expected to be in McComb to assist with the rest of the building efforts in the next two weeks.
And that’s only the beginning of the story, predicts St. Isidore’s Kelly French.

On May 9, her parish is hosting a “first ever” ecumenical dinner for 600 people to honor the participating churches. Additional guests will include 22 more churches which have expressed interest in Operation Katrina.
Representatives from neighboring Catholic parishes -- St. Joan of Arc in San Ramon, Christ the King in Pleasant Hill, St. Raymond in Dublin and St. Mary in Walnut Creek -- will also attend.

French foresees a second joint project. “Maybe we’ll do something here for the Valley, or maybe we’ll even build a whole subdivision for Katrina survivors.”

Whatever the plan, both French and Kennedy are excited by what has happened among the churches. “We’re all coming together as Christians to serve other people, and this has been a kind of a healing” toward ecumenical cooperation, said French.

Kennedy likes the idea of Christians participating in a physical building project “instead of just writing a check.”

Tommy Balducci, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Isidore School in Danville, hammers nails alongside his dad, Tom, as volunteers build the walls of a new home for Hurricane Katrina victims in McComb, Mississippi.
CNS PHOTO/Greg Tarczynski


Volunteer carpenters write messages of the wall studs.


Volunteers stack the walls of a house prior to its shipment to Mississippi.


David Gonsalves of Lafayette joins other volunteers in prayer at Creekside Community Church in Alamo where they had just finished assembling portions of two houses.


This four-acre plot in McComb, Mississippi, will soon be transformed into a 16-home development, built by East Bay church volunteers.


Fred Hull, Operation Katrina’s project manager, enters the model home set up at San Ramon Valley Christian Fellowship.



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