Friars in the South Cope with Severe Drought

HNP Communications Around the Province

ATLANTA, Ga. — “We can’t water our lawn, it’s a mortal sin,” said Mario DiLella, OFM, at the Campus Ministry at the Catholic Center at Georgia Tech here. 

Mario was referring to the drought that has crippled southern Georgia and northern Florida for the past few months. Lake Lanier in Cumming, Ga., shown in photo, which provides water for much of the area, is reportedly 15 feet below normal. 

“We’re trying to cut water usage down by 10 percent, in any way we can,” Mario added. As for drinking water, Mario estimates that the area has about another five months worth. “It’s a very bad situation.”

David Hyman, OFM, at the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia in Athens, calls it disastrous. He has reduced his water consumption by 50 percent, incorporating small changes into his lifestyle such as flushing toilets less often.

Mario said students on the campus are encouraged to take shorter showers and to reuse water. For example, he said, after a bath, the water could be used to water plants.

Even restaurants are trying to conserve tap water, by reducing the cost of bottled water to make it more affordable for people, according to David. 

Praying for Rain
Friars all throughout the south have been affected by the drought, often reflecting back on St. Francis’ love of nature and God’s creation. In addition to Mario and David, friars serving in the drought-affected area includeAubrey McNeil, OFM, in Anderson, S.C., and Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, in Athens. 

“There’s no rain,” said Mario. “I can’t even remember when we had any.”

But they are praying for rain, according to David, who said an interdenominational prayer service was held last month to petition for rain. Hundreds gathered outside Georgia’s capitol on Nov. 14.

“We just have to trust in the Lord,” added Mario. “Some day it’s going to come. It’ll come – the rain will start – all in God’s time.” 

The Georgia Tech students, he said, are particularly in tune with conservation and sustainability, especially since it’s a technological school. “The kids get it,” he said. Students in Athens are equally doing their part, advocating for conservation. David recommends a movie called “Water.”

However, David said that not all people take the situation seriously. “Some behave,” he said, “as if they don’t care.” 

Nonetheless, David makes himself available to talk with people about how to conserve along with trusting in God. “This situation is a great lesson,” he said. “It makes people think.”

For now, friars are praying and watchfully waiting for rain. Just like the light of Advent, they’re sure it will come someday.

 Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to this newsletter.