Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 27, 2004
Delegates observe U. S. stewardship
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Mary Ann Yusep is grateful to have gotten out alive. And she prays for those she left behind.
As one of the fiercest storms on record tore through the Caribbean towards the United States, 22 delegates from the Edmonton Archdiocese, including Yusep and Archbishop Thomas Collins, began arriving Sept. 12 in New Orleans for a three-day stewardship conference.
They did not stay long.
Hurricane Ivan, a category-5 monster with winds near 300 km/hr, turned north after it ravaged the western tip of Cuba. While hurricane centre reports could not pinpoint where Ivan would strike, early predictions stated that if it hit New Orleans directly, the accompanying storm surge could leave the coastal city under six metres of water. Much of New Orleans is below sea level.
"When we arrived, it was sunny and humid," said Yusep, the archdiocese's stewardship director. "But what happened was something I wasn't prepared for."
Network with directors
The delegation did manage to attend a few talks at the conference. Yusep said it was a good opportunity for her to network with stewardship directors in other dioceses to see what has been successful for them.
"The conferences are a great tool for us to use for leadership training as well as to form ourselves in the spirituality and theology of stewardship. I want to adapt those methods to the Canadian experience," she said. "We shared some of the common challenges we have and explored some strategies to overcome those challenges."
The archbishop agreed.
"I got to only one talk before we had to leave," he said. "Stewardship is a wonderful thing and we go to these conferences to get an understanding of the insights other people have throughout North America. A conference is meant to be an opportunity for sharing that kind of information."
Everyone seems to have difficulty in conveying the importance of stewardship.
"The avenues of communication we use are a consideration," Yusep said. "The Internet is a way to connect with the youth. Some dioceses are using television as a mode of communication. Others are using newsletters given to parishioners directly.
"We were also able to our plenary speaker, Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking," Yusep said. "She talked about her own experience of God calling her into prison ministry, and how, in stewardship, we are all called to be involved in human justice issues."
Yusep's role to serve and organize the delegates took a different turn when she learned about the evacuation order Monday evening. Most of the delegates were scheduled to leave Wednesday evening or Thursday. Yusep called them all. They decided it was in everyone's best interest to leave early.
"By 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, the weather channel was up and running again. It was very apparent, with the statement by the mayor that we were in a state of emergency. Several of us met and decided we needed to evacuate immediately."
A plan was prepared to leave by bus, using a nearby Greyhound terminal. No taxicabs were available. The airport was closed. And what would have regularly been a breezy five-hour ride to Houston took a grinding 18 hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic.
"We walked to the bus station and a few of us got on the first bus. At times, we were going no faster than eight km/hr. People were actually walking faster beside us. The weather was fine but you could see the clouds starting to roll in. We did manage to barely stay ahead of the hurricane.
"We were disappointed we had to leave because the talks are really valuable, but we made the right decision to get out," Yusep said.
Water and food were limited. There were sanitation issues as rest stops were few. But Yusep credits the archbishop and others with maintaining an upbeat mood.
"We looked at the bright side of the situation," she said. "We were able to evacuate. We looked at the people who helped us as stewards, especially our bus driver. He was totally in control. He had his entire family on the bus with him. He was firm with people because he didn't want any trouble on the bus. He was a true steward," she said.