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dixie flood
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Photographing while your heart is breaking

Covering the news can be really hard on your soul sometimes. Last week was one of those hard times….

I was in Valley Park walking through the old part of town following Captain Mickey Downing and his Valley Park Fire Protection District crew as they went door to door urging homeowners to evacuate as waters rose on the levee. Most residents had already left or were in the process of moving.  Those who wanted to stay behind were recorded in the Captain’s notebook where he wrote their emergency phone numbers and other helpful contact information in case the worst happened.

The firemen had almost completed their task in the neighborhood when Dixie appeared out of seemingly nowhere. She was dressed lightly for the frigid temperature and was several blocks from home.  She had been out walking trying desperately to find someone to help her.  Reporter Dave Luecking, the Captain and I just happened to be there at the right time when Jesus needed someone to help His Dixie.

It turns out Dixie is a caregiver for her 94-year-old disabled mother, (and for 2 dogs and a cherished cockatiel). She had no phone, no car and nobody to help in the emergency.  So with some alacrity and sense of impending waters, we headed off to her house to see what could be done.

Dixie’s mother cannot hear very well and her eyes try very hard to focus in her small and cramped surroundings.  She was sitting in a chair in the front room of the house with her nightgown on.  She was disoriented and there was fear written on her face.  Dixie tried to explain to her mother that they needed to leave their house because the waters were raising on the levee but her mother cried in fear, “What are you doing to me?! Why do I have to leave? I do not want to loose my house.” She cried, saying the words over and over.  Nothing Dixie could say would calm her frail mom.

The elder woman was so scared, her screams of fright pierced my heart, and I felt compelled to record this painful happening with my camera. To make an image of a tender yet chaotic moment between mother and daughter in hopes that the instant would mean something for others.  Maybe it would speak to another heart; maybe it would help people understand the tragedy of flood, of disaster, of human relationship. Maybe I am simply hiding behind my lens as a shield from the emotion of what is happening. But maybe, and as I hope for, the resulting image will offer a glimpse into how God sees us as poor little souls in complete need of His loving and saving power. We are helpless, just like Dixie and her mom, without Him.

After a few moments recording this compelling scene with my camera it was time for some action.  Dixie’s mom’s name is Nora and that was my first connection to this dear woman. I come from a long line of Nora-women, including my mother and daughter. (Why I didn’t get to be a Nora too is still something that pains me; but I digress…) I tried to talk to Nora but she has a hard time hearing so I had to get pretty close. When she didn’t recognize my face it made things even more difficult.  But when I told her about my Noras, she was instantly better. “We Noras have to stick together,” I said!

We got a few blankets around her and found an old wheelchair out on the back porch to settle here into.  A bird rescue volunteer came to take care of BeBe the cockatiel, leashes were found for the dogs and a driver was ready to drive everyone to safety at the Red Cross emergency shelter.

Later that night, after a day of shooting more photos of flooding, I came home to the quiet of my home and gave thanks I was dry. And when I went to pray, I found myself asking God one of my usual questions “Why do You put me in some of the situations You do? They are so hard for me!”

The answer I always get back in the quiet of my heart is.  show my children.

It’s a kind of straightforward answer He gives to me, so I guess I’ll continue to be an obedient servant and push the shutter button on my camera trusting He knows what to do with the resulting photographs.

And I’ll continue to do it because in each frame I shoot, I somehow find Him

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  For more information on the recent flooding in the St. Louis area please visit the St. Louis Review: stlouisreview.com/flooding

Contact Lisa: lisajohnston@archstl.org


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Memento Mori

“In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them’ (“Lumen Gentium” 50). Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, 958

The room of Father Edward Filipiak is preserved as it was on Sept, 29, 1979, when he was murdered at the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis.

In this month of November, let us remember to pray for the souls of the faithful departed.

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Photo of the Week: Superwoman?

Caption:

by Weston Kenney | westonkenney@archstl.org | Instagram: westonkenney

Superwoman?

Debbie Gartner is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and is its Pastoral Associate for Seniors. Along with being a pastoral associate, she also co-coordinates a volunteer group from Immaculate Heart that servers dinner at St. Peter and Paul Shelter twice a month. This group has been serving dinner for the residents at the shelter for two years. The volunteers also donate clothes and toiletries for the men who come to the shelter. Gartner received the Catholic Women Award on August 2. “I want the men to know that they matter, that they still have value, that they are important,” Gartner said.

 Reflection:

By Colleen Dulle | colleendulle@archstl.org | twitter: @colleendulle

In response to this story, I received messages from two women who were moved by Debbie Gartner’s ministries.  One woman, Judy, had lost her husband in November and wanted to donate some of his clothing to the homeless women Debbie serves.  Another, Barb, had read about Debbie’s card-writing ministry and was inspired to begin one at her own parish.

These ladies gave me hope that the print media can still be an avenue of two-way communication, helping us come together to serve those in need.  I hope Review readers will continue to contact reporters if they want more information on something or would like to get involved; that is why we put our email addresses and Twitter handles next to every article we write!

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Photo of the Week: Planned Parenthood

Caption:

| Weston Kenney | westonkenney@archstl.org | Instagram: westonkenney

Protesters stood outside Planned Parenthood facility on Forest Park Blvd. in St. Louis in response to a video that surfaced that showed a Planned Parenthood worker negotiating selling fetal tissue from abortions. Cindy and Rudy Mendez, stood outside of Planned Parenthood in protest on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

http://stlouisreview.com/article/2015-07-23/planned-parenthood

Thoughts:

My photo I’m sharing this week is of Cindy and Rudy Mendez, a couple that stood outside Planned Parenthood in protest of recent videos that surfaced, which showed a Planned Parenthood official negotiating selling fetal tissue from abortions. What really struck me about this picture is Cindy Mendez’s facial expression. I believe it really dives deep into the whole dark story behind abortion.

Fr. Nick Smith gives an animated talk at Liturgy Camp
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Photo of the Week: Liturgy Camp

 

Hello all! My name is Weston Kenney and I am a 20-year-old (poor) college student hailing from Bowling Green, Kentucky. And no, I do not have a country accent, well at least I don’t think I do. Anyway, I am currently enjoying my photojournalism internship at the St. Louis Review that will end, unfortunately, in August. But alas, I still have a month!  This fall I will be venturing into my sophomore year at Western Kentucky University where I am majoring in photojournalism.

For my first photo post on this blog, I selected a picture that I took on an assignment for the Review. The photograph is of an animated Father Nick Smith who was a speaker at Liturgy Camp in Eureka. Now I know this isn’t a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, nevertheless it is still a picture that means a lot to me. It reflects Father Smith’s personality – funny, smart and witty. He can take a joke, but he is equally adept and dishing one out. He is a good listener. During his presentation for the participants at Liturgy Camp, he made sure every kid had his or her voice heard. It was more of an open discussion rather than a one-way conversation directed at the youth. Father Smith’s genuine approach showed me his ability to reach these young people in a unique and special way. They were blessed that he was there to be part of their faith journey.

The best part of this internship so far has not been the pictures I have made but the people who I have met. Thank you Father Smith for helping to make my summer in St. Louis a memorable one.