By 'Catholic Herald' Reporters
CATHOLICS thinly scattered along the coast and river lines of '-'four dioceses—Brentwood, Southwark, Northampton and Nottingham—were hit by the raging flood waters which spread death and widespread havoc over parts of East Anglia, Essex and the Thames Estuary area.
The chaos of smashed telephone cables, homes and churches marooned
and largely cut off from all outside communication has inevitably resulted in a fragmentary picture of the catastrophe as it affected individual
But accounts of many incidents and personal experiences are enough to show that Catholics—while far fewer in numbers—naturally shared with the mass of other flood victims the terrors and discomforts of the worst sea-invasion for generations.
Worst-affected district in the 300 inundated square miles from the Humber to the Kent coast was Canvey Island, where Fr. Bernard Manning, parish priest of the small Church of the English Martyrs, has been working almost non-stop since Sunday on the stricken island itself.
Fr. Manning proved the most elusive of the army of relief and rescue workers, largely because there was so much for him to do—assessing the damage to property. seeking the missing, helping and consoling parishioners and others evacuated from their homes.
But I was able to speak to the Rev. Mother of the Sisters of Mercy Convent at Wanstead shortly after she had received seven nuns brought from the Canvey convent by boat and Army truck on Monday.
"They were surrounded by the rising waters, but fortunately the convent is on high ground. They spent an anxious, sleepless night waiting for help to conic.
"When morning came the rescuers arrived. Three of the nuns were rowed across to Benfleet on the Essex mainland. Then the fire brigade arrived and the four others were taken aboard a truck which ploughed through the floodwaters up to its mudguards in water."
135, a stroke of luck on Tuesday. I managed to locate Fr. Ronald Roberts. who gave me this impression of the situation in the Shoeburyness and Foulness regions;
"Quite a number of Catholics who live in the low-lying parts of the parish have had to leave their homes.
"I went along after Mass on Sunday with members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to see what we could do to help. And I must say that Catholics didn't need any prompting. Some immediately offered to take evacuees into their own homes. Others took part in organising and collecting clothes and blankets.
"Now that help on a bigger scale has come, many other Catholics— anonymously and as individuals—are deployed in the new drive to plug the great breaches torn by the floodwaters in the sea wall. You'll find them in uniform or as civilian volunteers. They are doing splendid work."
Fr. Roberts set out on Monday to get through to Fr. Manning on Canvey Island. He was turned back.
"It's been very hard to trace Fr. Manning," he told me later. "He was Continued on page ti
Nun dies at 104
Sister Mary Clothilde (Brousseau) has died at the mother house of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus andMary, Montreal, at the age of 104. She had been a nun for 87 years.