By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
As Hurricane Harvey was in its final days wrecking the Gulf Coast, students, parents and parishioners at St. Rita Catholic Community knew time was of the essence and rushed to coordinate a response.
The result was overwhelming and on Sept. 1, as parents dropped off students for school, they unloaded a multitude of donations from the trunk of their cars; items such as food, clothing, and toiletries.
On Sept. 2, parents and parishioners filled the donated items into seven trucks and delivered them to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, where a few hurricane evacuees were being housed.
New St. Rita Principal Carol Walsh, a former Houstonian, said the appeal was urgent and simultaneously served as a lesson to students about the importance of service and social justice.
“One of the things we really try to communicate to the students is care for one another and share what we have,” said Walsh, who served as principal of St. Cecilia Catholic School in Houston for 10 years before taking the principal’s post at St. Rita earlier this year. “It’s so important for our students to live out the Gospel values that we try so hard to model here at school.”
For Walsh, the initiative was also personal, as members of her own family fled north to Dallas, some staying in her new home while flood waters destroyed theirs in Houston.
“We had a lot of tropical storms and Hurricane Ike, but this was very devastating due to the amount of rain and how many days it rained in that area,” Walsh said.
St. Rita pastor Father Joshua Whitfield said the parish is not simply interested in helping during the short-term, but in the long haul as well. That includes the possibility of admitting students displaced by the hurricane while their families seek a new place to live.
“Matthew 25 is clear,” Father Whitfield said. “We are called to help the least of our brothers and sisters and those least have come to us in buses up I-35. That’s what our Catholic faith teaches us. That’s what solidarity means.”
In the meantime, Walsh said she had spoken to Houston Catholic Schools superintendent Debra Haney, who identified for Walsh five schools in the archdiocese currently in urgent need of assistance.
Walsh said she and her staff are now working on a plan to fundraise gift cards and monetary donations that would help those particular schools.