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BISHOPS-HONORED Nov-11-2008 (630 words) With photos. xxxn

Three bishops honored for their restoration efforts following Katrina

By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Three U.S. bishops from the Gulf Coast area were honored Nov. 10 for the leadership they demonstrated following the vast destruction brought to their region by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, the Catholic Church Extension Society and FADICA, or Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, presented retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston and Archbishops Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Ala., and Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans with the awards during a reception at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

"These three men have served as an example to all of us for their contributions to the well-being of others," said Kerry A. Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, a nonprofit organization that helps Catholic organizations to strengthen governance and promote excellence and best practices in management and finances.

"They have dedicated their lives to rebuilding the churches after Katrina and the whole fabric of society," she said.

The archbishops were credited with joining forces with each other, Catholic organizations and their communities to expedite the rebuilding efforts for their churches and their communities, Robinson told the reception room full of bishops, cardinals and media representatives.

"After the storm, the utter devastation was indescribable," Archbishop Rodi said as he accepted his award. "I stood in the ruined churches and schools and just cried. We felt very much alone, but not for long."

The Catholic population may not be large in his archdiocese, but the people were generous with their time, money and determination to make the region stronger than before the storm, he said.

"They have a tremendous strength (of) character," added the archbishop, who was bishop of Biloxi, Miss., when Katrina hit. He was installed as Mobile's archbishop in June 2008.

Archbishop Fiorenza said his region suffered the least damage during that 2005 storm, but found the brotherhood of his fellow bishops from all over the U.S. to be stronger than ever in those days, weeks and months after Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast.

"The partnership between the bishops, communities and Catholic organizations was an extraordinary expression of solidarity ... in response to a natural disaster," Archbishop Hughes said. "We couldn't have accomplished what we have done so far without the help of the National Leadership Roundtable, the Extension Society or any of these groups."

Father Jack Wall, president of the Catholic Church Extension Society and a National Leadership Roundtable board member, said the church management organization's standards of excellence for parishes, dioceses and nonprofits are "one way to help us as an institution to continue to search for ways that express excellence in our mission."

"It is not the only way, but it is an important one," said Father Wall, a Chicago archdiocesan priest. "A great mission deserves great management. It's an important quality. Mission is first, but mission needs management."

Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., said these groups have been invaluable in helping Catholic institutions with financial and management systems, because they have expertise from the private sector.

"In the economic conditions we're experiencing now and will continue to experience in the recession that we're going through, it is providential that the Roundtable resource is up and running and available for church organizations," said Francis J. Butler, president of FADICA who also is a National Leadership Roundtable board member.

"Management issues, fundraising, measures that will help an organization deal with tougher economic times -- those sorts of questions are now on the minds of people in the church, and they have a ready resource to help them address what they're going through and better ways to navigate these very tough years," Butler added.


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