Marian Missionaries Make a Plea for Disaster Relief
As you may know, in 2008 the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception founded a mission in the island nation of the Philippines — a mission focused on proclaiming the message of The Divine Mercy and devotion to Mary Immaculate.
As you may also know, the Philippines was devastated by a massive typhoon on Dec. 16-17 responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 men, women and children. The damage has also left countless families homeless and has ruined the water supplies in several areas, leaving local authorities struggling to organize aid efforts. Authorities are predicting an epidemic of cholera and diphtheria.
The Marians in the Philippines are requesting your help in the form of prayers and financial assistance. Funds will be distributed to relief efforts centering on helping people to be resettled and new homes built for them, as well as providing food, clothing, water, and medical supplies to victims.
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Elzbieta "Ela" Chodzko-Zajko, a lay missionary of the Marian Fathers stationed in the province of Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao, says reports put the number of fatalities in Cagayan de Oro alone at 650. In addition, she says, "There are still over 1,000 people missing in the two main towns of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, although most now assume these can be counted as victims."
"Many inhabitants had to vacate their houses because of the flood warnings. According to the latest news, about 44,000 indigenous people are seeking temporary shelters with very poor sanitary facilities; up to 4,000 people are sharing school buildings with about two toilets available and no available water or food. Also, 276,000 people had to leave their homes and their livelihoods.
"Many of the Cagayan clergy were hit hard and took some time to get their act together, but now we see volunteers and groups organizing relief work, packing food parcels, clothing, water containers, etc.," Ela says. "As usual it takes a lot to knock Filipinos down and much more to keep them down for long. They are very resilient, God-fearing people, and they deserve our help.
"Still, we feel so helpless at the moment as many people are not able to survive due to lack of water and food and lack of supplies," she says.
View a video of the plight Filipinos are now facing. ...
The Most Rev. Antonio Javellana Ledesma, S.J., D.D., the Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, has made a similar plea. In an open letter to the Church and the world, he describes the horror suffered during the typhoon and in its aftermath. He writes:
Christmas is a time of rejoicing. But this year in Cagayan de Oro we mourn and express our condolence for all those who have perished in the wake of Typhoon Sendong on Dec. 16-17. In some places entire families have been washed away by the rampaging waters of Cagayan de Oro River. Others died in their sleep, trapped inside their homes by the sudden rise of floodwaters that reached unprecedented levels past midnight.
There are accounts of how a mother clutching the hands of two children was able to escape from the floods, only to lose another child whose pleas for help could be heard receding in the darkness of the night. Another family was able to hold on to an uprooted balete tree that floated out into Macajalar Bay and reached the shores of Camiguin Island. Floating bodies have been retrieved from the waters of nearby towns. The low-lying communities of Cala-Cala and Isla de Oro have been leveled by a tsunami-like river surge.
Practically everyone in the city has lost some relatives or personal friends in this calamity. Schools have lost some students and staff; officemates have not reported because of the condition of their homes; and a number of unidentified bodies still await a dignified burial in a common resting place.
In some of our churches, the Misa de Gallo could not be celebrated because the church became a refuge for families seeking higher ground. In one chapel, even pigs and other animals were brought in and tied at the foot of the altar. Lay ministers were scandalized until the parish priest reminded them that this must have been the same situation in the stable of that first Christmas night. We have also started to celebrate the Misa de Gallo in the evacuation centers.
Even as we grieve with those directly affected by this tragedy, the challenge for us now is to help rebuild the lives and broken homes of the survivors. The evacuation centers are slowly being organized in the distribution of relief goods — in particular, water, food, medicine, mats, blankets, etc.
... May the newborn child in the manger fill us with the spirit of solidarity in moments of adversity and hope in the sharing of love and life with one another. "Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart" (Ps 90).
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• Call the Marian Helpers Center at 1-800-462-7426 (USA & Canada) or 413-298-1399.
• Write to: Association of Marian Helpers, Attn: Philippines Disaster, Eden Hill, Stockbridge Mass. 01263