Cardinal says Irma collection can help meet material, pastoral needs

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald


president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington has asked
his fellow bishops around the country to take up an emergency collection in their dioceses during
weekend Masses Sept. 23-24 to help those recovering from devastation wrought by
Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and the southeastern region of the United States.

“While emergency
outreach was immediate, we know that the road to recovery and the rebuilding of
communities will be long and additional support will be needed,” said
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in a statement issued late
Sept. 14.

The funds collected
“will be used in the affected areas to support humanitarian aid,
assistance with long-term efforts to restore communities after widespread
destruction, and for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the church in U.S.
and the Caribbean,” he said.

Cardinal DiNardo
acknowledged that his call “comes on the heels” of the emergency
collection for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana and
held on for days before moving inland.

Harvey, too, “caused
catastrophic damage and compelled us to respond,” he said. “Likewise,
Hurricane Irma has been devastating and our brothers and sisters in the
Caribbean, especially the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and the
southern U.S. need our help.”

earlier call for a collection came in an Aug. 28 letter from Archbishop Jose H.
Gomez of Los Angeles, as USCCB vice president, suggesting funds be collected
during Masses the weekend of Sept. 2-3 or Sept. 9-10.

Hardly any place in the
path of Hurricane Irma was left untouched. Its strength and size, with
120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in
the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba’s north coast,
devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and
targeted cities along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

In the Keys alone, at
least 25 percent of the homes were destroyed and 65 percent suffered
significant damage, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency
administrator Brock Long. “Basically, every house in the Keys was
impacted,” he told the news media.

In a Sept. 12 statement,
the U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee prayed for “the safety and care of
human life” after two catastrophic hurricanes — Irma and Harvey — and
they urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as
financial support and volunteer help as they can.

Irma dwindled to a tropical storm as it neared the Florida-Georgia line early Sept. 11 and had died out over southern states by week’s end.

“The church is a channel
for grace and solidarity in the wake of natural disasters as it offers solace
and support in their aftermath,” Cardinal DiNardo said Sept. 14. “However,
as is so often the case, the church itself in these regions is both a
long-standing provider of aid and now is in need of tremendous assistance

Many church structures “have
been damaged and their resources depleted which makes it even more challenging
to provide assistance and pastoral outreach to those in need,” he added.

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