There are many reasons to take pride in being Catholic these days, and many of those reasons have been chronicled both in the national and international press — and in recent editions of The Record.
And now there comes yet another reason — the unending and tireless work done by Catholic Relief Services and noted not only by news stories both here and around the world, but on our own Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz’s blog.
The response of Catholic Relief Services, as well as that of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Louisville and those throughout the nation, to the typhoon disaster in the Philippines, should make everyone proud. As Catholics we know that when the world comes apart for some people somewhere in the world; when the earth quakes and buries homes and loved ones; when tsunamis wash away hopes and dreams and families; and when storms here and abroad blow lives asunder, Catholic Relief Services is often the first agency to reach out with a helping hand to those harmed.
Archbishop Kurtz, in several compelling blog posts while he was in the Philippines, has detailed the work of CRS and the overwhelming disaster they were helping people try to overcome.
As Assistant Editor Marnie McAllister reported in The Record last week, CRS has raised about $48 million for typhoon relief for the Philippines. Of that total, about $28 million was from private donors and another $20 million from public sources. The people of the archdiocese of Louisville donated $134,660.71 to that total, McAllister reported.
CRS and Caritas Internationalis are beginning to offer emergency humanitarian assistance to help the people most affected by the typhoon last November. And McAllister reported that the people of St. Frances of Rome Church here in Louisville have provided $9,000 so that about 20 families — whose livelihood is dependent upon fishing — could pay for 10 16-foot “pump” boats to replace some that were lost in the storm.
The families will share the boats, and though the donation won’t replace the boats — and income — that were lost to the winds, the actions of this one parish serves as an example of what parishes throughout the nation and world are doing to help the typhoon’s victims.
According to St. Frances of Rome’s pastor, Father B.J. Breen, the minute the news of Typhoon Haiyan reached Louisville last November, the people of his parish thought of their friend, Father Louie Galbines, whose ministry is in the Philippines. Father Galbines has visited Louisville and lived temporarily at St. Frances of Rome a few years ago.
A St. Frances parishioner Katie Evers told McAllister, the moment the devastation to the Philippines and her people became apparent, the parishioners at St. Frances of Rome were determined to act.
That devastation also made an impression on Archbishop Kurtz and the delegation from the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that he headed. The archbishop, who is president of the bishops’ conference, wrote of meeting for two hours with the people of a Philippines district that had been struck by the typhoon’s 198 mile per hour winds.
“CRS has worked heroically to help with shelter, water, and human support to those dislocated,” the archbishop wrote in a blog entry published in the Feb. 13 edition of The Record.
In another post, the archbishop wrote:
“Seven cargo ships ran aground in the Anibong region of Tacloban City during Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, as it is called in the Philippines,” he said. “Three months later, children run and play around the mud-encrusted rudders of one ship. Wooden piles stick out of the water nearby where now-destroyed houses once sat on stilts. Debris litters the ground for miles. Power lines overhead dangle on patched and broken poles, impossibly tangled.”
Catholic Relief Services, the archbishop reported, has helped repair or build 20,000 shelters, brought clean water and sanitation services to that same area. They’re also helping the Filipino people help themselves, he wrote.
“Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila met with us….and cautioned against regarding the Filipino people as victims or ourselves as rescuers. We should be open to learning from the people, he said. What I learned was that, even as they rebuild their homes and struggle for their families’ livelihoods, the Filipino people have real faith and radiate what Pope Francis calls the joy of the Gospel. They have felt Yolanda’s wrath, but they feel God’s love even more,” Archbishop Kurtz wrote.
They can see God’s love, at least in part, in the efforts of Catholic Relief Services and parishes such as St. Frances of Rome halfway around the world in Louisville, Ky. That they can should make us all proud of our faith — a faith that is willing to give of itself as God commanded.