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 CNS Story:

SANDY-RECOVERY Nov-15-2012 (910 words) With photos posted Nov. 6, 14 and 15. xxxn

As Sandy recovery continues, parishes help meet theirs, others' needs

A third-grade student smiles as she practices penmanship at Long Beach Catholic Regional School in Long Beach, N.Y., Nov. 15. Classes resumed at the school Nov. 14, more than two weeks after it was closed because of Hurricane Sandy. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

By Pete Sheehan
Catholic News Service

OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (CNS) -- With the hurricane winds, massive tides and driving rain now more than two weeks behind them, Long Islanders continue to help rebuild their community, homes and lives.

Hurricane Sandy hit all of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, which lies east of New York City, but some communities, particularly those on the South Shore, were devastated by the swollen tides created by the storm.

Damage caused by Sandy has been estimated at $50 billion, though some reports put the figure at $60 billion.

As of Nov. 14, the Long Island Power Authority had restored electricity to 99 percent of its customers, more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy made landfall. About 35,000 customers still had no power, because their homes were damaged by flooding and in need of electrical repairs.

At the peak of the storm, power was knocked out for 8.5 million customers in 10 states, with the majority in New York and New Jersey.

The Rockville Centre Diocese has asked parishes to take up both a monetary collection and a collection for needed items such as food, blankets and hygiene supplies, and set up four distribution centers.

"We're coordinating the response," said Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan, diocesan vicar general, assigned by Bishop William F. Murphy to organize the diocese's response. "That way the parishes that were not as badly hit can help those that were."

Long Beach was one of the hardest-hit areas in the region. On Nov. 14, Long Beach Catholic Regional School was able to reopen.

A message on the school's website announced a Nov. 13 parent meeting. "We hope that many of you can join us," it said, "but if this meeting time causes a hardship and you cannot make it, then please feel free to contact us either through email or call school -- once we are open -- and we will answer any of your questions. Be well, stay safe and God bless you all."

"Long Beach looks like the Gulf Coast of Louisiana during Katrina," said Father Kevin Smith, Nassau County fire chaplain and pastor of St. Dominic's Church in Oyster Bay. He had visited several hard-hit areas.

St. Ignatius Martyr on Long Beach, a barrier island off the South Shore of Long Island, "is a disaster," Father Smith added. "It's located near the beach and the storm surge waters came up to the building. There are four to five feet of sand on the church property." The rectory basement was flooded.

Long Beach was evacuated before the storm and many homes were destroyed, Father Smith explained. Some remained despite warnings, "afraid to leave because they fear that they might be able to get back," he added.

Other South Shore parishes were hard hit, such as St. Jude's in Mastic Beach.

"We had about 1,000 families whose homes were affected," Father Gregory Yacyshyn, pastor of St. Jude's, "and possibly as many as half of those will have to be condemned."

Diocesan Catholic Charities officials have been focusing on repair and cleanup efforts of its facilities and trying to plan for the long-term response.

The agency has partnered with the diocese to coordinate donations of goods and services, said Kristy D'Errico, disaster relief coordinator for Catholic Charities.

A tractor-trailer of supplies from St. John's University arrived at the agency's Hicksville offices Nov. 11. Staffers and volunteers divided the goods to deliver to four parishes across Long Island, where the items were to be divided again and sent to the parishes in most need.

The North Shore suffered less intense storm surges but still had extensive power loss.

Father Larry Duncklee, pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Riverhead, described celebrating an evening Spanish Mass Nov. 1, four days after Sandy hit, despite the power outage. The church was cold, he said, and "people brought candles and flashlights and I used a Karaoke machine."

One North Shore church, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Centerport, was spared any damage or power outage, said Msg. John Gilmartin, pastor, "but 95 percent of our parishioners weren't spared."

For several nights, the parish community center was an emergency shelter. "We had as many as 90 people staying there one night," Msgr. Gilmartin said, with fewer people coming as more homes had power restored.

In addition, parishioners responded to an appeal for needed items, filling several truckloads that went to two other parishes.

"We weren't hit as hard as some parishes," said Msgr. Brian McNamara, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in West Islip, on the South Shore. "We have people who are hurting, but many of them haven't come to us yet." After he urged parishioners to donate needed items, he said, "we got a ton of stuff."

Though his church lacked power for days, said Msgr. Joe Granata, pastor of St. Hugh's near the North Shore, parishioners took part in an interfaith effort with the town of Huntington. Three churches and one Jewish temple set up warming sites for people to spend a few hours to get warm, recharge cell phones, and, in some cases, have a meal.

"I was touched by the number of people who knocked on the rectory door and asked how we were doing," noted Msgr. Granata, adding he has been moved by the many who have offered to help.

"We still have the long-term response," helping people rebuild their lives," Bishop Brennan said. "And, of course, there is always prayer."


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