Church responds as Harvey wreaks havoc in Texas

By: OSV Newsweekly

Father David Bergeron, a priest of Ottawa, Canada’s Companions of the Cross serving at the Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston, had a firsthand experience with Hurricane Harvey as it battered Texas — one that he hopes never to repeat.

The priest was driving home in his truck Saturday night, Aug. 26, when the heavy rains from Harvey, which had been reduced to a tropical storm but was still packing plenty of moisture, left him stranded with other vehicles on a roadway overpass.

“Everything was completely flooded, and the water wasn’t receding,” Father Bergeron told Our Sunday Visitor. “I had to spend the night sleeping in my truck.”

Noting that emergency vehicles were stranded as well, Father Bergeron also observed that the only rescuers who could function were those who had boats. Suddenly his kayaking hobby became a huge asset. 

“The water was moving quickly, and it was unsafe to try to walk or swim through it, but I felt safe using my kayak,” he said. He kept the red-orange flotation device in the back of his truck.

Seeing no other option, the priest, who was about 3 miles from the southeast Houston home he shares with other members of his community, decided to abandon his truck, hop in his kayak and head home. Along the way, he began to realize that he could use his kayak for more than just getting home. He could use it to help. 

One man he encountered was stranded on one side of the street and concerned because he hadn’t heard for a few hours from his son in a building on the opposite side of the street. The priest was able to help the man cross by steadying him with his kayak so that he could find out that his son was safe.

Wanting to celebrate Mass for those stranded by the flooding, Father Bergeron attempted to buy wine at a local convenience store but was refused, he said, because Texas does not allow alcohol sales at such locations before noon on Sundays. He was, however, able to buy food for his community. This was an accomplishment in itself, he said, as the convenience store where he bought the food had been nearly stripped bare.

Paddling to safety on his kayak and assisting people along the way reminded Father Bergeron of his French-Canadian ancestors back in his native Canada. “This is how North America was once evangelized, using a canoe,” he said. 

It ended up that Father Bergeron was lucky. The flood waters surrounding his truck receded fairly quickly, and he was able to retrieve his truck. 

Though no longer aboard his kayak, he was able to continue his one-man rescue operation, assisting a brother priest from his community, who uses an oxygen machine. The elderly man had been concerned that the power would go out in his home and that he’d lose electricity for his machine, so he checked into a local hotel. But when it turned out that the hotel lost electricity and his home didn’t, Father Bergeron was able to assist the priest — through a combination of walking and driving — back to the safety of his home.

Father Bergeron has seen heavy rain in his life, but nothing to compare with Hurricane Harvey. 

“It has been a dangerous situation,” he said, “but we must not give up hope.” His prayer has been, he said, “for an end to the rain, and the beginning of a reign of the mercy of the Lord.”

Father Bergeron, the oldest of seven, is a French Canadian who grew up in Quebec. After a brief business career, he decided to join the Companions of the Cross, a religious community founded by Father Bob Bedard, who was active in the charismatic movement. Today, the community has 40 priests, including two bishops, and has served Houston’s Charismatic Center since 1999. Father Bergeron has served as associate director of the center for two years. Priests at the center provide Mass and the sacraments to a mostly Latino community, as well as evangelization retreats, Father Bergeron said. These help participants “have an encounter with Jesus Christ and to begin a journey alongside him,” he said. 

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Accompaniment for missionaries at home

Saturday, September 16, 2017
By: Michelle Martin OSV Newsweekly Maryknoll Sister Peg Donovan had been on mission in Tanzania for 43 years when her congregation asked her to... Read More

Uncertainty reigns for DACA’s ‘Dreamers’

Thursday, September 14, 2017
By: Brian Fraga OSV Newsweekly Since President Donald Trump announced Sept. 5 that his administration will be rescinding Deferred Action for... Read More

Immense need is "new normal" after Harey

Monday, September 11, 2017
By: Jim Graves OSV Newsweekly Growing up on the Gulf Coast, Father Wencil Pavlovsky, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Nassau Bay, Texas,... Read More

‘I had to go. I felt like I owed it to Stan.’

Saturday, September 9, 2017
By: Mariann Hughes OSV Newsweekly Sister Bernice Kita, an American Maryknoll missionary to the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala, will be... Read More

Writing after his time

Thursday, September 7, 2017
By: Robert P. Lockwood OSV Newsweekly A dear friend dropped me a note saying she enjoyed something I wrote. That’s why she’s a dear... Read More

Texas parishioners shocked by devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey

Friday, September 1, 2017
By:  Catholic News Service OSV Newsweekly HOUSTON (CNS) -- With floodwater as high as 20 feet from swelling bayous and waterways, thousands of... Read More

Church responds as Harvey wreaks havoc in Texas

Thursday, August 31, 2017
By: Jim Graves OSV Newsweekly Father David Bergeron, a priest of Ottawa, Canada’s Companions of the Cross serving at the Catholic Charismatic... Read More

Your marriage is worth saving

Friday, August 25, 2017
By: Dr. Gregory K. Popcak OSV Newsweekly According to researchers at the University of Washington, March and August see the largest spikes in... Read More

'Do not be afraid': Fighting fear with faith

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
By: Bill Dodds OSV Newsweekly Scripture seldom has an angel begin a visit with “Hello.” There’s no “How are you?”... Read More

A tyranny of sexuality

Sunday, August 13, 2017
By: Russell Shaw OSV Daily Take G.K. Chesterton got a lot of things right. Here’s one: “The moment sex ceases to be a servant it... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!