When a major disaster strikes, the drama it unleashes is always composed of thousands of individual stories – the tragedy of a sudden death, the luck of a near-miss or improbable escape, the fear of people suddenly separated from loved ones or homes, and the heroism of those who risk their own safety to help others.
Such has been the case again in parts of Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey over the last few days.
Within that mosaic of individual experiences, one of the most novel surely belongs to Father David Bergeron, a French-Canadian and member of the Companions of the Cross religious order who’s stationed with a few fellow priests at Houston’s large Catholic Charismatic Center. (He’s sort of a living witness to the universality of Catholicism — a French-speaker in an English-speaking country, serving a population that’s 80 percent Hispanic and Spanish-speaking.)
Bergeron ended up stranded in his truck on an area highway Saturday night. Sunday morning, he awoke and naturally wanted to say Mass, but there was no congregation on his overpass. So, the enterprising young priest broke out the kayak that was in the back of his pickup and set off, hoping to find a place where he could buy a bit of wine to round out his on-the-go Mass kit.
Bergeron did locate an open convenience store, but ran afoul of a ban on alcohol sales on Sundays until noon. (That, by the way, may say something about the resilience of Houstonians – amid a near-apocalypse, order still had to be upheld and the ban was honored, even for a priest!)
His plans to say Mass foiled, Bergeron paddled up and down nearby streets anyway, checking to make sure people were okay. He was usually able to get as close as the driveways of their homes, and shouted greetings across their lawns – reassuring them, as he put it, that “God is still with us.”
Video images of him navigating up and down streets were captured by Houston TV stations, and turned the self-effacing Bergeron into…