The news of the world is filled with tragedies — again.
Powerful earthquakes have threatened the future of an entire nation, and the death toll in that misbegotten place — Nepal — continues to rise inexorably.
American cities are in turmoil — again — even as people of many faiths attempt to calm the waters and restore order so that justice can be pursued.
In fact, one of the most remarkable things about faith leaders, especially people of the Catholic faith, is their willingness to step into the breach and lend a hand to those who need help, sustenance and guidance.
That willingness is on display again, this time in Nepal, where the earth shook violently on April 25 and again on May 12. The poor nation’s buildings, religious monuments, temples — and people — were destroyed by the tremors. The death count is above 8,000, and the destruction as described by the Catholic News Service, Reuters, CNN, the BBC and other news outlets is horrendous.
Yet almost before the earth stopped shaking after the April 25 quake and its aftershocks, 18 Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who have been living and ministering to the people of that mountainous country began to help. While they were doing what they could amid the aftermath of the disaster, in the U.S. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) quickly mobilized an effort to help.
Within 24 hours of the 7.8 magnitude quake, a CRS team was in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city. In a press release, CRS representative Tom Price said the agency’s initial effort will be to help find or provide shelter for those left homeless.
(Some news stories indicate that number may reach nearly a million people.)
Many people are afraid to sleep inside the few buildings that survived the quakes, Price said. That fear has only increased since the May 12 earthquake, according to Dr. Carolyn Woo, who leads CRS. Woo noted that CRS workers in Nepal were unharmed by the latest temblor, which registered a magnitude of 7.3.
CRS’ initial efforts are aimed at providing temporary shelter, blankets, water treatment kits and hygiene kits to more than 10,000 families.
This region of the world is known for frequent earthquakes. In fact, a New York Times story the week after the April quake reported that a year ago, scientists meeting in the region had predicted a “major seismic event” for the area “in the near future.”
As a result of this knowledge, CRS and those who assist it can be credited with prescient planning. The agency had “pre-positioned stocks of emergency aid in nearby Bihar, India, CRS’ April 27 news release said. Those supplies might represent a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed, nevertheless the tarps, mats, rope and aforementioned water and hygiene kits for 2,000 families were almost immediately available.
And CRS teams were also purchasing and transporting other critical relief items “into Nepal since most markets in Kathmandu remain closed,” the release said.
It should be noted that Catholic Relief Services — the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the U.S. — announced April 30 that it was committing $10 million to relief efforts in Nepal.
As Record editor Marnie McAllister noted in the April 30 issue of the paper, CRS, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Caritas Internationalis and other aid organizations have received prayer and encouragement from Pope Francis.
“I pray for the victims, those wounded and for all those who suffer because of this calamity,” the pope said to visitors in St. Peter’s Square on the day following the earthquake.
The SCNs, McAllister wrote, have set up a donation page to aid the sisters in Nepal — available at www.scnfamily.org.
And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked parishes to take a special collection for the quake’s victims and for the work of CRS. For information, visit www.crs.org.
Record Editor Emeritus