Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Chicago Blog

Monday, December 03, 2012

Anticipating Joy through Hope; Hope’s on the Way

By Deacon Sal Lema

When life looks so unlike life, what does the word of the Lord sound like?  John would tell us God’s word came to him in whispers on desert winds. “Every valley” would be lifted up, “every mountain” made low; crooked places would be straightened and rough places made smooth.  In a word, the word of the Lord would sound like the earth moving under our feet ending when “all flesh” would see God’s salvation in the coming Christ.  When you feel as if the very life has been knocked out of you, listen for the sound of the coming word of the Lord. That sound is the sound of hope before the brutal winds of a dry desert.

It was August 2005. I remember sitting at my desk and writing about how Hurricane Katrina damaged the motherhouse of Carmelite sisters who lived in New Orleans. As the editor of a Carmelite magazine, I was struck by the enormous destruction that 10 feet of water sitting in their home for a whole month could do. I could not just sit back and send a donation and hope that all would be well. Visiting the sisters six months later, one would have thought the hurricane had struck only days before Deacon Joe Winblad and I arrived. During that visit, an idea was formed to be of service to those suffering the effects of disasters. Perhaps we could provide hope in the dry desert of destruction. Our rebuilding efforts could be heard as a comforting wind of hope in the lives of those we would touch.

From the efforts of five Chicago deacons who went to New Orleans in early 2006, came a grass-roots organization called Hope’s on the Way. Made up of deacons and volunteers  who are conscious of their gifts and are willing to share their time, talents and treasure, more than 200 volunteers have joined in our quest serving others both out-of-state and in our own archdiocese. Our combined efforts have provided more than $800,000 in goods and services thus far. Now we look to help those suffering from the effects of hurricane Sandy.

As second responders who have made 11 missions to Louisiana, and one mission to Alabama, we are knowledgeable about what people are going through and what their needs will be. After a ferocious storm such as Sandy, basic items are hard to come by. An example of that was the rationing of gasoline in the initial weeks after the hurricane hit. Once utilities are restored and people are allowed back in their homes to review the damage, they will begin to put their lives back together. Supplies of any kind are hard to come by, and if available at all, will be difficult to get.

Our effort, called Buckets of Hope, is to provide 5-gallon buckets full of cleaning supplies to be used as the cleanup begins. Our program hopes to send 500 buckets of supplies to those in need in New Jersey and New York by January 2013. To be a part of this venture and bring hope to those suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, visit our website at where all the details are provided. Together we can be that anticipation of joy and help straighten and make smooth the rough roads that lie ahead, by providing  a whisper of hope to those in despair because of the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy.