St. Jerome Church in Fancy Farm, Ky., became the hands and feet of Christ for tornado survivors last weekend when the Universal Church celebrated the third Sunday of Advent, a day typically meant for rejoicing.
The parish hall at St. Jerome was sheltering 25 people who survived — but were left homeless — by deadly tornadoes that ravaged Kentucky and neighboring states Dec. 10-11.
As parishioners and parish staff provided hospitality to the survivors from nearby Mayfield, Ky., they were fulfilling the Gospel call to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
They made room in their own hearts for Christ and his people. And through their love, they may have pointed others toward Jesus, as well.
But amid the devastation and loss of life, how do those who are suffering prepare during Advent? How can they celebrate Christmas?
For those who have lost everything and for whom Christmas and even life may never be the same, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro has a message.
He points not to Advent or Christmas, but to the cross and Christ’s resurrection, according to a report from the Western Kentucky Catholic.
Speaking at a Dec. 12 Mass for storm survivors from Mayfield, Ky., he noted that in a few days, families would have been setting up Nativity scenes in their homes.
“But the wood of the manger gives way to the wood of the cross. And the cross is in our churches year-round,” said Bishop Medley, formerly a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. “We can make our sufferings one in communion with Christ on the cross.”
He pointed out that Resurrection Church in Dawson Springs, Ky., suffered the most damage in the diocese.
“The theme of the resurrection will be core to our thoughts during this very difficult process,” he said.
While the theme of the resurrection and Easter are preceded by 40 days of sacrifice during Lent, Easter and resurrection are about hope. In these dark days of winter, the resurrection is on the horizon.
With faith, reliance on God and help from the surrounding communities, Easter will come.
That’s where the rest of us — who haven’t been affected — come in. We are the hands and feet of Christ.
Sister Martha Keller, pastoral associate of St. Jerome, said in an interview with The Record Dec. 13 that people have been wrestling with the question, “What about Christmas?”
The answer is plain, she said, because she’s seen it unfold.
“This weekend was Gaudete Sunday. We can rejoice because there are people being Christ for each other,” she said, repeatedly pointing out that people are doing whatever they can to help. “This is church at its best.”
Here we are in Advent. Western Kentucky has a long way to go toward recovery. We will see them through — not only to Easter on our calendars, but to their Easter when life begins anew with rebuilt houses and churches, healing and hope.
One way to help is to participate in parish collections to support recovery efforts this weekend, Dec. 18-19.
Beyond the parish collection, look for ways to help — large and small. From prayer to financial contributions, we have the ability to help bring hope and new life to Western Kentucky.