As Hurricane Harvey approached, the Bishop of Corpus Christi was preparing to ride out the storm. He urged the country to remember that many people are forced to stay, especially the poorest. “We have among us those who are not able to leave the city. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to stay as well: to be here present,” Bishop Michael Mulvey told CNA Aug. 25, encouraging everyone to help them as much as possible.
Ahead of the hurricane’s landfall, he reported the Friday morning winds were gradually strengthening and the storm surge was already approaching the nearby pier. “The tide is rising. It’s pretty eerie. But the full effect is not here yet, of course,” the bishop reported.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall near Corpus Christi early Saturday as a Category 3 hurricane or stronger. The National Weather Service predicts sustained winds of at least 110 miles per hour. The storm will likely stall over Texas, dropping up to 35 inches of rain in parts of the state, the New York Times reports. Heavy flooding is expected.
Bishop Mulvey has sent out a message to the faithful, saying he was praying for them. He will spend the storm at his home in an inner room, joined by the diocese’s vicar general and vocation director. “We’re right on the bay. We’re on the front lines,” the bishop said. “We’ll have to put the shutters down, so we probably won’t be able to see anything when it hits the hardest. We probably won’t have any electricity. We’ll be making a rotation on the watch. I don’t know if anybody is going to sleep anyway.”
He predicted the three clerics would just spend time visiting and praying. “We’ll pray the rosary a few times,” he said. “We’ll pray especially for the people in this city and those in the path along the way up the Gulf Coast.”
For Bishop Mulvey, leaving the city was technically an option. He was due to arrive back in town after travels on Wednesday. “I definitely wanted to be here,” he said. “I was due back anyway, but I’m certainly not going to turn around and go somewhere else.”
Voicing gratitude for police, medical personnel and other first responders working during the storms, he advised the faithful to follow the instructions of civil authorities and to “stay together, and pray.” They should think on the many Gospel passages about the waters, like Christ calming troubled seas. The bishop encouraged Catholics to have “that same faith that Peter had” during the storms.
Among residents who have left town is the Corpus Christi diocese’s chancellor, Benedict Nguyen. He and his wife have five children, age 10-21, one of whom is studying in Kansas. “We assessed the situation, boarded up our house, and decided it would be best to go stay with the family a little bit,” Nguyen told CNA from Kansas. “Just wait it out.”
The diocese has been preparing for days in a very stressful situation. “I think the most troubling thing is just the unpredictability of it,” Nguyen continued. “We’re not sure how expensive the damage will be. We know there will be some power outages, possibly some property damage, and of course it’s not just the chancery office itself but all of the parishes.” “We have 70 parishes and 30 missions we have to think about also,” he said, reporting that the chancery office itself is just two blocks from the bay. “We’re up on a little bit of a hill, on a high point right behind the cathedral,” he said. “Our cathedral looks out towards downtown corpus Christi. Beyond that is the bay.”
The storm protocols involve various planning for parish communications, data backups, keeping in touch with staff, and preservation of the diocesan archives. Individual parish churches have their own response plans. “The first thing is always to keep God in mind, to pray. Family comes first, people come first. Things can always be replaced,” the chancellor said.
At the same time, the diocese was aware of the need to take care for its patrimony. Among the groups aiding victims of the storm is Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. It plans to meet emergency needs for shelter, food and medication for those who lose everything in the storm. Due to predictions of flooding, the agency has closed its offices through Monday. However, it is running a flood relief hotline at 713-874-6664.