By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Thanks to parishioners of St. Frances of Rome Church, 20 families in the Philippines who lost their homes and livelihoods to November’s Typhoon Haiyan, have had their way of making a living restored.
The parish has collected $9,000, which is being used to buy 10 fishing boats — called pump boats — that the families will share.
Their efforts are small compared to the vast need in the island nation. But St. Frances of Rome is one of thousands of parishes around the United States that have offered aid to the Philippines.
Most have contributed to typhoon relief through the United States bishops’ nationwide collection to benefit their international aid organization, Catholic Relief Services. Parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville have contributed $134,660.71 to that collection.
As of last week, CRS has raised about $48 million, including $28 million from private donors and $20 million from public sources, according to a CRS representative in the Philippines, Joe Curry.
He reported these numbers during a meeting Feb. 3 with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and other members of a delegation to the Philippines. The delegates were there to observe recovery efforts of CRS and Caritas Internationalis.
Those organizations offered emergency humanitarian assistance initially and now are establishing programs for recovery. Among them is a project to build temporary wooden shelters for families and pump money into local economies by hiring local workers to build them. Another CRS program is outfitting coconut farmers — whose crops were decimated in some areas — with tools and skills to grow other crops while new coconut trees grow.
Another CRS program has provided 16-foot fishing boats to fisherman, just as St. Frances of Rome has done with the help of a dear friend in the Philippines, Father Louie Galbines.
“When the trouble with the typhoon in the Philippines happened, we thought of him right away,” said Father B.J. Breen, pastor of St. Frances. “Even though it wasn’t in his area, we knew that he knew the area and would make sure the money would get to where it’s needed.”
Father Galbines, who lived at St. Frances temporarily some years ago and still visits occasionally, wasn’t affected directly by the November storm. But thousands of others were, especially those who lived and worked by the ocean.
In an email he sent Feb. 4, Father Galbines told the St. Frances parishioners, “I am deeply surprised and touched by your extraordinary way of remembering and loving me, and most especially my fellow men and women who were completely devastated by the typhoon Yolanda,” the name used for the typhoon in the Philippines.
“We all feel so loved by all of you and we know that God’s miraculous help happened, because all of you, there in St. Frances of Rome community, have ‘allowed’ God to use your heart so that his concrete love could reach us in this part of the world,” he wrote. “Right now, people have improvised houses already and what they really need are pump boats for their food and daily sustenance.
“I really thank each one of you, my dear St. Frances of Rome Community,” he said. “In each one of you, we have found true brothers and sisters who take good care of us in our limit-situations. God is so alive in your heart and we thank God for you and keep you in our prayers.”
Katie Evers, a parishioner of St. Frances, said the devastation in the Philippines compelled her and other parishioners to help. That feeling that was magnified by their love for Father Galbines.
“He’s full of life, hope, compassion and happiness. Everybody loves him,” Evers said. “I wish we had more like him.”
She said she was surprised, initially, to hear the money would be used for boats rather than another, more typical, kind of relief. But upon reflection, she said she thought, “it’s excellent; it’s a perfect solution. People who live in those countries (affected by disasters) know best.”
Catholic News Service contributed to this story.