Some old friends came to visit here

Published 9:51 am Friday, July 13, 2018


From the moment the visitors arrived — the Rev. Jack Wall of Chicago, director of Catholic Extension; Most Rev. Curtis Guillory, bishop of Beaumont — you could sense some “buzz” in the crowd. Tuesday was not like other days at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Procter Street.

You could sense it among the Children’s Choir members, poised to open a thanksgiving service with song. You could sense it among the parishioners and friends gathered on folded chairs, seated in front of a makeshift altar in the parish hall.

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Wall came bearing gifts, starting with a check for $100,000. Guillory came to receive them, here and on behalf of the diocesan Retreat Center in Beaumont, for St. Mary’s in Fannett and for the sisters in the Western Vicariate, who tend to the poor from Chambers County outward.

Livier Pulido led the children in joyous Spanish song; what might have been lost in translation for some was made plain by Wall when he arose to offer the first of installments that would add up to $670,000 in aid from the national Catholic agency for the poor to the Diocese of Beaumont. The message was clear: Across the continent, from Chicago to the Texas coast, from east to west, this was one church and one people.

“It’s a powerful thing to walk in as strangers and see we are all in this together,” Wall said. “We just want to say you’re not alone. We are with you.”

In fact, the visitors from Chicago are no strangers at all. Catholic Extension has weighed in to Beaumont’s benefit for as long as this has been a diocese. The agency, founded in 1905, when Port Arthur’s population was counted by the scores, has helped here with the prison ministry, with the Hispanic ministry, with the Retreat Center. They are cherished friends; Guillory himself sits on Catholic Extension’s board.

St. Joseph, a treasured church, needs its friends. Its every building was flooded in Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey; parishioners were driven from their parish and took refuge in the comfort of nearby St. James until the parish could at least move back into its own hall.

St. Joseph’s church itself is on track to open in September; Tuesday’s donation will help St. Joseph’s reclaim its classrooms. It’s a long, slow slog — but not a lonely one.

Greater Port Arthur and Mid County have been well blessed by good-faith efforts of the faithful. We’ve met Baptists and Lutherans and Catholics and Muslims and Methodists and more who have given generously when the kindness of others was all that local people could depend upon.

Eventually, Guillory said, through insurance and FEMA and donations and hard work, St. Joseph’s will be made whole. Until then, it’s simply rich in friends.