Dioceses follow government’s lead, hunker down for Sandy

Rising water at New York’s Battery Park. (CNS photo/Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -– Dioceses along the East Coast followed the lead of federal, state and local governments in shutting operations Oct. 29, the day Hurricane Sandy was expected to make landfall, with New Jersey expected to be in the center of the huge storm.

Catholic Charities USA was working with its local affiliates along the East Coast on how to get necessary supplies and services to the affiliates once the storm passes.

“Reports from the National Weather Service make it clear that many of our agencies on the East Coast — from New York all the way down to Florida — will be feeling some impact from Hurricane Sandy and we stand ready to provide whatever support necessary to meet the needs of those affected,” said a statement from Samuel Chambers, Catholic Charities senior vice president of disaster operations.

“Since Hurricane Katrina, we have focused on being prepared for future disasters,” said a statement from Catholic Charities president Father Larry Snyder. “Not only are we early responders, but our presence in the community also puts us in a position to be able to quickly assess and provide support in the long term.”

Dioceses heeded the advice of governors and big-city mayors, who had declared a state of emergency in their respective jurisdictions, and shut down for at least one day with the possibility of extending their shutdown longer.

The Archdiocese of New York closed Oct. 29 “due to the decision by the MTA to suspend public transportation as a result of Hurricane Sandy,” said a statement on the archdiocesan website. The MTA is the Metropolitan Transit Authority; New York’s subway system shut down the day before. As for the possibility of continued closing, the statement added, “We will be guided by the decisions of the governor, mayor and MTA.”

The Diocese of Camden, N.J., which takes in southernmost New Jersey, announced it would be closed both Oct. 29 and 30. “There’s some kind of meeting in Atlantic City on Wednesday (Oct. 31); that’s not going to happen, Peter Feuerherd, diocesan director of communications, told Catholic News Service.

“The storm is coming, apparently, right over Atlantic City,” which is in the Camden Diocese, Feuerherd added. “Our parishes are all along the shore from Atlantic City down, all the way to Cape May,” he said. “Those beach communities are going to be hit hard. The governor (Chris Christie) has already evacuated those beach communities, (but) I’m not actually there and I can’t tell you whether people have actually taken the advice to get out.”

The Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., had already decided by late morning Oct. 29 to be closed Oct. 30 as well, according to Jim Goodness, the director of communications for the archdiocese.

“All of the schools of the archdiocese have been following the leads of the state,” Goodness said. “Parishes can certainly handle themselves.”

Still, “we’d certainly worry. We had several parishes that went underwater last year” from the rains of Hurricane Irene after it was downgraded to a tropical storm, Goodness told CNS. “Working with our property management people to mitigate (bad effects), however, they can hope that things can work out better this time than they last time.”

Since the worst of the storm wasn’t expected to come until sundown Oct. 29, diocesan representatives said it would be hard to assess any negative impact of Sandy until afterward.

The Diocese of Paterson, N.J., was also closing Oct. 29-30. Accompanying the Oct. 29 announcement on the diocesan website was a map showing Sandy’s path. New Jersey was the only state in all white while other states had at least a little green.

President Barack Obama returned to the White House from an Oct. 29 campaign event in Florida, and canceled a campaign event in Wisconsin to monitor the storm and be briefed on federal emergency preparedness activities.

Asked whether Sandy would have an impact on the Nov. 6 election, Obama replied: ”The election will take care of itself next week. Right now, our number-one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives, that our search-and-rescue teams are going to be in place, that people are going to get the food, the water, the shelter that they need in case of emergency, and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track.”


Impending storm, early voting and feeling encouraged about our democratic process

Here in the region where it’s “All Politics” every year, it takes something enormous to knock the last days of the election campaign down the priority list.

The forecast for days of widespread weather misery, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, therefore is likely at least partly responsible for the huge turnout at early voting polling venues in Maryland and Washington.

(CNS photo/Reuters)

Polling places that opened Oct. 27 were inundated, overwhelmed by voters who were trying to get a jump on voting. Lines stretched for blocks. People reported standing in line for hours at polling places that initially had far too few voting machines.

In fairness, this was the first time for Maryland to have early voting in a presidential election. A constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature in 2007 and ratified by voters in the 2008 general election made Maryland one of 32 states that allow early voting.

At one of Maryland’s polling sites on the second day of early voting this weekend, it took me an hour and ten minutes to get through the line that snaked about halfway around a full block from the building.

But, far from being a tedious wait, it was an energizing exercise in civics. My neighbors in line were all strangers, but we became a little community of engaged voters during our hour together.

Since the line stretched far from the boundary near the polling place where politicking is prohibited, volunteers worked the crowd. They handed out literature – while not being pushy with those who didn’t want it — and happily paused to talk if asked about the various candidates and ballot issues they represented.

Maryland has some well-advertised ballot issues this year, including one redefining the definition of marriage to allow same-sex marriages and one approving a state version of the DREAM Act. But there are also a few that have been little discussed and that aren’t well explained in the literature mailed by the county.

So, we learned from the volunteers and from neighbors in line.

A passing volunteer explained the history of a measure to give police chiefs some power that currently is part of the police union’s negotiating options. While obviously interested in one outcome, she wasn’t strident and seemed to explain the opposing viewpoint with as little bias as her own.

One woman offered to tell us about a judge she knows: “You know how nobody ever knows anything about the judges on the ballot?” she started. “Well, for a change I know one of them. I can tell you about her.”

Inside the building, the crowds were handled efficiently and cheerfully. I listened as one poll worker helped a man with limited English ability in the booth next to mine get through the ballot. He clearly knew the issues and how he wanted to vote, but struggled a little with the computer logistics. The poll worker helped him with no indication of bias, no suggestion of condescending to him.

I dropped my ballot card in the bin, picked up my “I voted” sticker and headed home, feeling pleased that I’d been able to cross “vote” off my pre-storm to-do list. But more, I was encouraged that the democratic process was working.

Vatican Voices: Ralph Martin

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

By Greg Watry

VATICAN CITY — In the latest edition of Vatican Voices, Ralph Martin, a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and an official expert at the Synod on the new evangelization, talks of the legacy of Vatican II and some theological fallacies that he says spread in its wake.

Click here:

Vatican Voices: Ralph Martin


For our print story click here: Misreading of Vatican II dampened missionary zeal, theologian says

For our video click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kyILAhx2KQ&list=UUDfNrxA5dMp0co1siQOLrjg&index=3&feature=plcp