Upstate Catholic Charities agencies reach out to downstate Sandy victims

Published on January 23rd, 2013

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Pictured, from left, are Richard E. Barnes, executive director, NYS Catholic Conference; Joseph Slavik, CEO, Catholic Charities, Syracuse; Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany; Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, CEO, Catholic Charities, New York; Laura Cassell, CEO, Catholic Charities, Rockville Centre; Robert Siebel, CEO, Catholic Charities, Brooklyn; Dennis Walczyk, CEO, Catholic Charities, Buffalo; Vincent Colanno, CEO, Catholic Charities, Albany; Jack Balinsky, CEO, Catholic Charities, Rochester. Absent, Sister Donna Franklin, DC, CEO, Catholic Charities, Ogdensburg

Albany, N.Y. – Thirteen months after upstate New York was devastated by Hurricane Irene, upstate Catholics and non-Catholics alike came together to support those downstate affected by Superstorm Sandy.  Through special collections, fundraisers, school events, and generous individual contributions, the total amount raised by the Catholic Church and its ministries in the five upstate dioceses was $1,364,822.

A large symbolic check representing that total was presented to Catholic Charities representatives in the three downstate dioceses hardest hit by Sandy. Those three highly populated downstate dioceses, the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, also collected another $5.5 million to aid the victims of Sandy within their own communities. In total, the Church in New York raised nearly $7 million for direct aid.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Albany Diocese and representing the five upstate bishops.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are still recovering from this storm, and these donations will be put to work right away.  We want our fellow New Yorkers, and all affected by the storm, to know that we stand in solidarity with you during this period of recovery.”

Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, noted, “The real story today is about those in need – the people devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and about those who have generously decided to give help to those in need.  Catholics in parishes across our state have determined to help, because of their generosity and kindness toward strangers, and are directing their donations through the dedicated hands of the men and women of Catholic Charities.  The people who lost so much in Sandy, and in the untold situations of loss and need that we confront in our society every day, will continue to count on, and to find comfort, in the hands of Catholic Charities, and we urge continued and generous support of  their great work.”

In accepting the check from the upstate dioceses, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, CEO of Catholic Charities of the New York Archdiocese, said, “In every community of New York State, every day, Catholic Charities helps individuals and families to resolve problems and rebuild lives. When Sandy devastated so many communities in New York City and Long Island, Catholic Charities was present to be able to respond immediately to alleviate hardships and help hurting families. In the immediate aftermath and for the long-term, the range of Catholic Charities services are available to meet critical human needs.”

Bishop Hubbard, along with his colleagues throughout all New York, issued a special collection for Sandy Relief shortly after the storm wreaked its havoc.  Schools and parishes quickly pulled together vital supplies and arranged to bring them to the disaster zone.

The response is especially noteworthy, considering that at a similar time the previous year gifts were coming into upstate New York to help with recovery efforts from Hurricane Irene.  Hundreds of local homes and business were damaged by that storm and the flooding that ensued in August of 2011. Much of upstate New York, including eleven counties in the Albany Diocese, were declared Federal Disaster Areas.

The ability to help those who lost their homes or are suffering a tragedy is central to Catholic social teaching, according to Vincent Colonno, CEO of Catholic Charities of Albany.  “Storm recovery efforts hit close to home for us with Irene and Lee, because we have fresh memories of similar devastation and we know the kind of difficulties they are facing,” he said.  “We also know what a significant difference these gifts will make, and we’re proud to be a part of the recovery.”

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