Austin Response

It is impossible not to be aware of the situation in New Orleans and the problems facing the residents of the Big Easy. There are evac shelters across the State of Texas as well as 17 other states, including in Austin. While the FEMA and other federal entities can be and have been blamed for slow and uncoordinated responses, it seems that Austin is putting its best foot forward in this time of need.

The University of Texas has opened our doors to the influx of university students now without an academic home. For the most part, the new admissions policy applies to Texas residents or graduates of Texas schools, however, we are also breaking that policy to help people. I recently met a graduate student from Tulane who, although not a Texas resident, is wanting to make Texas his home, at least for this semester.

Honestly, with some of the experiences I’ve had with UT (i.e. Save Players, financial aid, etc), I was hopeful that we could do something but afraid we would pay too much attention to some other picture and ignore the blood and muscle that needed the help. I was in e-mail contact with various UT officials and heard back from Teresa Sullivan, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for The University of Texas System (The System is the state entity that has oversight over all UT campuses statewide).

Apparently, we’ve relaxed the residency requirements and are admitting non-Texan graduate students on a case-by-case basis. It’s not an open door for everyone and anyone but we are at or near capacity with our student body before the hurricane so it is a response that is quite aware of the human toll and going beyond the call of duty.

Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin used to call New Orleans his home. He was born, reared, ordained and served in New Orleans the vast majority of his life. He left his post as an auxiliary bishop of New Orleans to become the Bishop of Austin and still vacations in the city. As the Bishop of Austin with new souls arriving that need spiritual care and as someone whose heart isn’t far from the city, he is working to help in whatever way we can.
Any funds collected by parishes for the effort are to be forwarded to the chancery so that Bishop Aymond can distribute them to the various (arch)dioceses impacted by the storm. In addition, the Diocese of Austin cancelled a ministry conference scheduled for this weekend since the venue, the Austin Convention Center, serves a much better purpose as an evac shelter. Shelters will be opening up in some other parishes in the Diocese, including Bryan/College Station and Brenham.

Lastly, the Diocese is coordinating priests to serve as chaplains at the ACC and to offer daily Mass. Last I heard, there were 4,000 or 5,000 people who are now calling Austin “home”.

For information on how you can help in Austin, visit the City of Austin.
The Brandon Kraft Foundation, along with Lambda Omega Alpha, are collecting funds to assist with the effort. A LOA alumnus has come forward with a matching program for relief donations. Online donations are accepted as well as checks via the USPS or dropped off in the Lambda box at the University Catholic Center.






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