As Houston continues to be pounded by rainfall related to Hurricane Harvey, a Catholic priest returning from watching the big fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor Saturday night couldn’t get home, and spent the night sleeping in his truck on an overpass.
On Sunday Morning, he woke up ready to do what every priest does that day, which is to say Sunday Mass. In his case, however, his conveyance to get there was a little unusual: He used a kayak to navigate the city’s flooded streets, hoping to find people stranded along the way. He saw many Hispanics stranded, and was drawn to them as there are many Hispanics who attend services at his parish.
Father David Bergeron of the Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston, in an interview with a local Houston ABC affiliate station told a reporter, “I’m French Canadian …. this is how the Americas were evangelized, with a canoe.”
Technically, of course, it wasn’t a canoe but a kayak, but for Bergeron the spirit’s the same.
“I hope that can bring a smile to a few people, and obviously I’m praying for everyone who is in need,” he said.
His plan to say Mass was complicated when he found an open liquor store, went in to buy wine for the liturgy, and found that it’s illegal to buy alcohol before noon on a Sunday in Houston. Laughing, he said that he didn’t usually buy alcohol in the morning, so he didn’t know the rule.
Afterwards, he said, he didn’t have enough time to gather people for Mass before he had to get to the location for his interview, since images of him paddling up and down flooded streets had already made him something of a local insta-celebrity.
He said he was getting texts from parishioners who had seen him on TV, and who told him, “I guess we’re alive, and the Lord is alive, and the Lord is always with us as well.”
Now, Bergeron said, there’s one focus of his prayer above all: For the strong rains to end.
“There are a few psalms that implore the grace of God and the washing rain, but now we have enough rain, so we just want to repent for whatever it is we need to repent for and go on,” he said.
Founded in Houston in 1972, the Catholic Charismatic Center fosters a spirituality grounded in the charismatic movement, featuring lively liturgies with upbeat music. Its congregation is roughly 80 percent Hispanic, and it’s been staffed since 1999 by members of the Companions of the Cross religious order to which Bergeron belongs.
Launched in 1985 in Ottawa, Canada, by a priest involved in the charismatic movement named Father Bob Bedard, the Companions of the Cross now include roughly forty priests as well as a related community of sisters and a body of lay associates.
Bishop Christian Riesbeck, an auxiliary bishop of Ottawa and the Vicar General of the archdiocese, is also a member of the Companions of the Cross, as is Bishop Scott McGaig of Canada’s military ordinariate.