What a ‘community of believers’ really means
Another election has come and gone, and when the complaining dies down, most of us will go back to our everyday lives without a blink. Politics is important. On some issues, it’s deadly serious. But most of the time, for most people, political passion is viral: It appears and disappears like the flu every campaign season.
Hurricane Sandy has come and gone as well. But its human imprint, its extraordinary devastation and suffering, will be with us for a very long time.
During my years of service in South Dakota and Colorado, hurricanes seemed part of another America. The people of the western states had their own serious natural disasters: forest fires, droughts and tornadoes, but nothing on the scale of Katrina or Irene. Catholics in Rapid City and Denver raised money many times for storm victims in Florida, Louisiana, Texas and other states, and abroad. But the idea of water drowning an entire major city like New Orleans – a city right here in the United States — seemed faraway and impossible, even while watching the catastrophe unfold on television.
It’s a very different experience when the hurricane is bearing down on your own people, their families and homes, and their neighbors. That’s when the power of such a storm begins to become real. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett both did an outstanding job of public leadership throughout the storm and its aftermath. Like many other people in the Philadelphia area, I rode out Hurricane Sandy as a particularly bad storm — expecting the worst, but never even losing power.
Hundreds of thousands of other people across the five counties of the archdiocese were not so lucky. Bucks and Montgomery were especially hard hit. Many families lost power and heat, and even water and telephone communications, for up to a week or more. Others have homes with severe wind and tree damage. Some of our parishes celebrated Sunday Mass, November 4, by candle light.
As painful as Sandy was for Pennsylvania though, the real carnage of the storm, with its loss of life and immense destruction of property, fell on New Jersey and New York. The images of devastation from Staten Island, Atlantic City and other surrounding communities are astonishing. They’re heart-breaking. Local Catholic dioceses, along with numerous volunteers and other relief organizations, are working hard to help the storm’s victims. But recovery will be a long road. Relief efforts need all the help they can get from neighboring dioceses and around the country.
The Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) Disaster Response Office is coordinating Church efforts to assist the victims of Sandy. Up to 50 Catholic Charities agencies will be involved, and donated resources will go to case management and emergency assistance, cleaning and house repairs, emergency evacuation assistance and long-term recovery needs. Financial contributions can be made by phone at 1.800.919.9338. Donations can also be made securely on the CCUSA website at: https://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=2357
A Christian community – a community of believers in Jesus Christ; a community of his disciples – defines itself by the generosity of its people. Catholics in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania have again and again shown their willingness to help other people in need, and especially the victims of disaster. Please give your financial support to these vital Sandy relief efforts through Catholic Charities USA. And please be as generous as you can.
At the discretion of local pastors, an optional special collection will be taken up at Sunday Masses in parishes across the Archdiocese on the weekend following Thanksgiving, November 24-25. All contributed funds will be provided to Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which will use the donated resources to assist Sandy storm victims locally and in other dioceses. Please join the Archbishop in praying for all those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Thank you for your help and your good will.