By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
The tornadoes that roared through Dallas on Oct. 20 brought down trees, homes and other structures, but it also brought out the best in some Catholic organizations and people assisting neighbors in need.
One tornado moved through the area in Northwest Dallas and the Preston Hollow area, destroying a church and several public school and private school buildings. St. Monica Catholic Church and School were spared while across the street, a middle school and neighborhood and nearby Thomas Jefferson High School took the brunt of one of the tornadoes.
On Oct. 21, Father Michael Guadagnoli, pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church, and Father Wade Bass, the church’s parochial vicar, led volunteers, including members of the St. Monica Dad’s Club, students and moms, in clearing limbs and debris from the parish and school grounds, including the athletic field.
Members of the Dad’s Club then went across the street to a neighborhood littered with dozens of fallen trees.
Gerald Sikes, a member of St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney, had driven to Dallas after the storm to help his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, whose house was damaged.
While the family gathered belongings to move to another location, Sikes was trying to find ways to cleanup large limbs from several trees that had blocked the driveway of the home located on a cul-de-sac. Sikes had taken the initiative for the cleanup because his son had to be in another town for a business meeting on the day following the tornado.
“We were out doing some things to kind of clean up and to get started all over again and some gentlemen from St. Monica showed up and said if you need a hand, food, water, we’re here for you,” Sikes said.
“Next thing I know a big group of gentlemen from St. Monica show up and saved the day. The driveway was blocked and they couldn’t get their cars out,” he said. “These gentlemen showed up. The path is cleared. We thank you very much St. Monica. In times when people needed help, they were there.”
Father Bass walked over to the home too, surveying the damage and making calls to determine if other people needed assistance.
“Faith is just not what we do inside the church. It is lived in the community and these guys are practicing what they believe,” he said. “That’s why it’s important. It doesn’t matter who these people are. I am just trying to not get in the way while they do the heavy lifting.”
Throughout the week members from other parishes or schools, including from San Juan Diego Catholic Church and Cistercian Preparatory School, assisted other families whose homes and properties were damaged or destroyed.
Lending a hand
Bishop Edward J. Burns asked pastors at all parishes for a special collection for torando relief at Masses Oct. 26-27, with donations going to Catholic Charities Dallas for distribution.
Catholic Charities Dallas is assisting on a need basis, including short-term and long-term case management depending on needs, payments for deposits/application fees for new residence on a case-by-case-basis and other assistance.
“We are helping people on a need-by-need basis. We are doing our best to connect families to immediate services, and are stepping-up to help distressed families get back on their feet through case management and, if needed, direct financial assistance,” said Kaylee Janes, Disaster Program Manager for Catholic Charities Dallas.
CEO Dave Woodyard encouraged those in need “to contact, CCD for assistance with a multitude of services, including financial assistance, help with material needs, volunteer manpower and case management that can help families and individuals regain some stability in their lives now and in the months to come.”
Catholic Charities Dallas may be reached at 866-223-7500.
Officials said the North Texas tornadoes caused billions of dollars in property damage, but no one was killed or severely injured.
Brian Jacot, one of several members of the St. Monica Dad’s Club, was one of several who not only cleaned up the church and school property but also went into the surrounding neighborhoods.
“It’s our neighborhood. It’s our families,” Jacot said. “It could be our homes. I would hope somebody would do the same for me if we were in need.”