May 22, 2013
Parishioners and volunteers at St. Frances Cabrini Church were still hustling and bustling five days after the tornado that tore through Granbury on May 15th as they operated one of the last round-the-clock emergency shelters and made preparations for providing long-term shelter.
Those outreach efforts began immediately after the tornado had passed that night, when a group of church volunteers, including outreach coordinators Tom and Julie Lyssy, rushed to the church and asked Monsignor Juan Rivero if they could start setting up an emergency shelter. Msgr. Rivero, without skipping a beat, said yes.
“You have to do it; it’s a crisis, and you have to respond to the crisis no matter what,” Msgr. Rivero said. “Whatever you can do is going to be good because people lost everything. The worst is just to be inactive and not Christian and not charitable. Having a good community and resources you have to put them to use.”
Before the clock hit 9 p.m. — not even an hour after the EF-4 tornado ripped through town — cots, blankets, tables, food, and supplies were being set up in the parish’s Family Life Center. Julie Lyssy, also the communication coordinator for the parish, said since then the parish has provided emergency shelter to 10-40 people each night. It is one of the few shelters to have remained open this long.
But now plans have shifted to providing longer-term aid to the victims of the storm, the coordinating couple said.
On the Monday after the storm, inside the parish’s Education Building, volunteers worked to set up cots in the religious education classrooms — makeshift bedrooms for 12 families who lost their homes and cannot find a place to stay. In total, those 12 families are made up of 61 people (some of whom are parishioners) who are staying there until they can return to their homes.
“Our commitment to them is that they will live there until they move into their new homes,” Julie Lyssy said. “If that’s two weeks, if that’s eight months, we don’t care. That is their place to live until they can go to where else they are calling home.”
Many of those using the emergency shelter in the Family Life Center next door have found accommodations with relatives or friends, Julie Lyssy said, and so that more temporary emergency shelter will close this week.
Msgr. Rivero said he supports using his parish as a refuge for those families, and so do the parishioners. Many were supportive of the consensus decision to provide apartment-style accommodations for those families “who lost everything.”
“It’s more secure for them if they are kind of in an apartment setting,” Msgr. Rivero said, explaining that being in an open shelter setting can be harder on parents and their children, and this provides more stability and eases the transition back to normalcy for those families.
The families will also be able cook their own meals (a fully stocked kitchenette is available for them), shower. and do their laundry (the parish has four showers, and Habitat for Humanity is bringing in a mobile shower unit).
But the parish is doing more than providing emergency and long-term shelter. Inside the parish hall Monday afternoon, volunteers organized donated clothing and received the steady stream of donations that came through the doors, including a large donation of canned foods and water from San Angelo Knights of Columbus Council 13514. Spearheaded by Pablo Florez and Michael Jasso, Council 13514, along with four other San Angelo councils sponsored a food drive that gathered enough supplies to fill a 6-foot by 10-foot trailer.
“It was everybody,” Florez said, speaking of the effort put in by people in San Angelo. “People pulled through and that’s what happened,” he said, looking over at the makeshift donation center where several of St. Frances Cabrini’s Knights were organizing the donated food.
Everybody has participated in this effort indeed, including the parish Knights of Columbus, the Ladies Guild, Arcoiris (the Spanish youth group), English and Spanish-speaking parishioners alike. Parishioners from St. John Vianney (an Anglican Ordinariate Church in Cleburne), Acton United Methodist, local Baptist churches were also a part of the effort. Even a group of three Good Samaritans from Georgia drove all the way to Granbury to help. Local businesses and restaurants have provided free meals, groceries, and even a new refrigerator.
“This community has really stepped in,” Tom Lyssy said. “Everybody’s stepping in over here.”
Msgr. Rivero is impressed with his parishioners and how they’ve pulled together to meet great devastation with great love and charity.
“I feel very proud of them,” Msgr. Rivero said. “I feel it’s a very good moment for them to show their really Catholic and Christian colors.”
Parishioners and volunteers at St. Frances Cabrini Church were still hustling and bustling five days after the tornado that tore through Granbury on May 15th as they operated one of the last round-the-clock emergency shelters and made preparations for providing long-term shelter. Those outreach efforts began immediately after the tornado had passed that night, when a group of church volunteers, including outreach coordinators Tom and Julie Lyssy, rushed to the church and asked Monsignor Juan Rivero if they could start setting up an emergency shelter. Msgr. Rivero, without skipping a beat, said yes.