LEFT: Sister Vera Butler, recipient of Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award in 2006.
RIGHT: Sister Vera checking on a New Orleans resident and her granddaughter after they were able to move back into their home following Hurricane Katrina.
"I Began to Love Again Because She Accepted Me as I Was"
Although Sister Vera Butler had been a long-time advocate for the poor in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina hit, her work became even more necessary. To help in the storm’s aftermath, Sister Vera created the Lantern Light Ministry. While much of America was not exposed to the poor in New Orleans until Katrina, Sister Vera already knew them well. She had been St. Joseph Church’s outreach coordinator to the poor and homeless since 1998.
Before the hurricane, the average annual family income of the people she served was $6,743. After Hurricane Katrina, the needs of the poor in New Orleans increased exponentially. So Sister Vera’s work increased exponentially, too. She went door-to-door through devastated neighborhoods. She created programs so people could get assistance obtaining personal identification cards and cash their benefit checks. And, at the time of her award, she was in the process of rebuilding the St. Joseph Church Recovery Center, where those who were homeless could shower, get food, and receive medical attention and legal help. One woman who was helped by Sister Vera after the hurricane said, “I became strong because she believed in me. I began to love again because she accepted me as I was and loved me unconditionally.”