From The Kentucky Standard | By Max Griendling

The local chapter of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth has reached out to the tornado victims just west of Kentucky.

Heavy rainfall blocked the volunteers path but gave way for a memorable opportunity which made a larger impact on the volunteers’ involved than they would ever have thought possible.

Under the direction of Sister Luke Boiarski, the sisters were heading to Montana to visit the Blackfoot Native American Reservation but because of flooding in North Dakota and Montana, the train from Chicago was delayed indefinitely.

After five days of sitting in the Chicago, the group scheduled a luncheon to decide what they would do.  Of the nine volunteers, five tagged along for a western adventure to Joplin, Mo.  Prior to their arrival, one of the most devastating tornadoes in history had ripped through the area, shredding homes and businesses, putting many citizens out of work and home.

The group rescheduled their venture to Montana for spring of next year.

Upon their arrival, College View Baptist Church offered food, board and showers for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth volunteers. Alongside other helpers and homeowners, Boiarski aided in dragging debris out to the road for pick-up at four homes.  Sometimes she found that listening to the victims of the tornado helped them more than the physical labor.

“People just need to tell their story to someone. Pray for them and pray with them–be a listening ear and a lending hand to people.”

A man named Darrel, a traumatized homeowner, was amazed at the number of volunteers.

“He had just lost his home, his car and his job.  This man had lost everything.  Once he saw people from all over the country coming to help, he said it had restored his faith in humanity,” Boiarski said. She felt as though there was not a more noble cause, especially when there were banners everywhere thanking the volunteers.

She was touched by the survivors of the tornado disasters and headed to Chattanooga and Aspen, Tenn., with a group of volunteers.  Two people opened their doors to the group and offered them food and shelter.

“Accommodations play a big role and you come back saying, ‘Oh my, I have water, a home and everything is intact here,’ but you think about the people who are still suffering,” Boiarski said.

In addition to aiding in tornado cleanups, she has consistently attempted to help out other disaster victims, such as the New Orleans hurricane survivors.  Although it was two years ago when the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth last visited the Louisiana city, they were there 12 times.

Upon Boiarski’s visit to New Orleans, while she was helping to repair another house, a desperate looking man came up to the group asking for help. A waiter, Emanuel Augustine said the remainder of the property from his collapsed house, at least what had been salvaged, was now being ruined by the rain and humidity.  Boiarski’s good friend and collaborator, Pastor Jim Graf of St. Francis Xavier in Raywick, was inspired by the nuns who had helped so many.  Without hesitation he asked his church-goers to provide help for New Orleans. Ronnie Mattingly, a construction worker who is a member of the St. Francis Xavier parish, as well as two other men, joined with two women of the Nazareth volunteers to build a garage for Augustine. After four days of labor in the grueling summer heat, the storage area he so desperately needed was finally complete.

“I have the best position in the world. I’m surrounded by wonderful people.” Boiarski said.  “I just know there are people out there who say ‘I can do that,’ but people don’t know where to go or where to help. I know there are people out there that can help.”

For additional information on volunteering or to contact Sisters of Charity of Nazareth call (502) 348-1578 or go online to www.scnfamily.org.