September 21, 2022 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Severe damage to Fleming-Neon Public Library in Fleming-Neon, Ky., on Aug. 23, 2022. COURTESY OF KATINA HAYDEN

‘Now it’s our turn’

Catholics of western Ky. respond to flooding devastation on other side of state

BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC

Back in December 2021, when western Kentucky was devastated by historic tornadoes, Catholics from dioceses around the Bluegrass State responded by sending more than $2 million to help the Diocese of Owensboro respond to survivors’ needs.

At the end of July 2022, torrential rains and deadly flooding struck eastern Kentucky, which includes the Diocese of Lexington. According to Governor Andy Beshear, at least 14 counties and three cities declared local states of emergency.

Bishop William F. Medley released a letter on Aug. 1 to the faithful of the Diocese of Owensboro calling to mind the generosity of their eastern Kentucky neighbors in the aftermath of the tornadoes.

“Now it’s our turn to repay their kindness,” the bishop wrote. He asked all 78 parishes to take up a special collection and to be “as generous as possible” in responding to the floods.

Bishop Medley added that his diocese was “overwhelmed” by the “outpouring of love, support and generosity” of Catholics from the dioceses of Louisville, Covington and Lexington, and that “it is a blessing that we now have the opportunity to respond in the same way to our brothers and sisters on the other side of the state.”

The governor’s office reported that as of Sept. 13, there had been 40 deaths from the floods and two individuals were still missing. More than 78,000 tons of debris have since been removed from land and another 37,000 tons were removed from water.

As of Sept. 19, the Diocese of Owensboro had received approximately $228,000 to send to flood recovery in eastern Kentucky. Of that total, $190,000 was received from its diocesan parishes and the remaining $38,000 came from individuals, foundations, and others.

While still in the midst of western Kentucky tornado recovery efforts, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro has been working to assist flood survivors as well.

Katina Hayden, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro’s director of case management, traveled with several fellow staff members in mid-August to transport a trailer of donated supplies to eastern Kentucky.

Hayden told The Western Kentucky Catholic that the resilience she witnessed among the flood survivors “was amazing.”

She said when she began gathering information about the families’ needs, she was moved by how “they were very open to talking with us. When we gave them gift cards to assist the families they hugged us in gratitude.”

As she and staff walked through the hard-hit City of Fleming-Neon, Hayden said families “were cleaning and mucking out their businesses and homes but stopped to say hello or wave as if we had always been in their community.”

The needs of flood survivors, and the ongoing needs of tornado survivors, are specific to each family. At this time, monetary donations are most appreciated so that survivors can purchase what they need. To send a donation, please visit https://owensborodiocese.org/give/.

Some of the destruction left by the floodwaters is seen in Letcher County, Ky., on Aug. 23, 2022. COURTESY OF KATINA HAYDEN

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Tina Kasey
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