Holy Name helps Katrina-struck parish with local ties

WAKEFIELD — Six months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, interest in the recovery effort has begun to wane among many Americans. Not so for members of the Holy Name Society in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Spearheaded by Anthony Cerullo, the newly appointed president of the archdiocesan Union of the Holy Name Society, the society has begun a campaign to raise funds in order to help rebuild the lives of the parishioners of the Center for Jesus the Lord in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

“The Center of Jesus the Lord needs help. The Holy Name Society is a religious organization and this is one way in which we saw that we can help,” he explained.

Cerullo was inspired to raise funds for the retreat house and spiritual community in part due to a long friendship with Father John Capuci, a Boston priest and the director of the center. A Wakefield native, Father Capuci and his family have been longtime parishioners at St. Florence Parish, Cerullo’s home parish.

“Father Capuci’s father was a good Holy Name man,” Cerullo said. “When we saw what was going on down in New Orleans, and how much more has to be done to rebuild, we knew it had to be done.”

According to Father Capuci, the Center of Jesus the Lord, although open and functional, is still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

“It cost nearly $55,000 to get our doors open this past October,” he recalled, adding that the congregation is still “down close to 25 percent because of people who have been displaced or forced to move.”

The emotional toll the hurricane has taken on the people of New Orleans is perhaps the most heart-wrenching, he added, noting that “there is a ‘deadness’ in many people’s eyes.”

“Many people come up to me and say, ‘Everything is all set in New Orleans now, right?’ and I say, ‘No,’” he said, adding that just this past week he went to a region of New Orleans in which there are still “houses piled on top of houses; cars on houses; houses one block away from their foundations; debris everywhere.”

“It is exceedingly sad,” he said, but the Center of Jesus the Lord is trying to help the people of New Orleans in as many ways as they can.

“To date we have given away almost $12,000 to people who need it,” he stated. “Our goal is to give between $250 and $500 to each family who comes to us. Everybody right now needs something.”

In addition to monetary assistance, the retreat house recently organized a giveaway, in which Father Capuci and his parishioners “got as much furniture as we could — things like bed frames, chairs, tables, spoons, mattresses — anything we could get” and gave it to anyone in need. According to Father Capuci, close to 300 people participated in the giveaway.

Although he is trying to meet the needs of the people of New Orleans, Father Capuci wishes Catholics could become more involved in the recovery effort — by donating their time, their money and their prayers.

“There’s nothing more powerful than evangelization through action,” he said. “If we as Catholics united in this time, we could make such a difference. We could drive the ship in such a way as society has never seen before.”

“This is a great opportunity for New Orleans and the Church to come alive,” he added.

To date, Cerullo has raised close to $800, “but that is just the beginning,” he emphasized. “Just the beginning.”

For more information or to give a donation, contact Anthony Cerullo at 781-245-7185.