Special collection for Hurricane Irma victims set for Sept. 23-24

Bishop Donald Kettler is asking parishes of the Diocese of St. Cloud to take up a special collection on the weekend of Sept. 23-24 to assist victims of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and the southeastern region of the United States.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington asked his fellow bishops around the country to take up the emergency collection in a statement issued Sept. 14.

“While emergency outreach was immediate, we know that the road to recovery and the rebuilding of communities will be long and additional support will be needed,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in the statement.

The funds collected “will be used in the affected areas to support humanitarian aid, assistance with long-term efforts to restore communities after widespread destruction, and for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the church in U.S. and the Caribbean,” he said.

Volunteers from St. Edward Parish in Pembroke Pines, Fla., prepare hot meals before setting out to knock on doors and check in on senior citizen residents of the expansive Century Village Pembroke Pines housing development Sept. 14. The effects of Hurricane Irma left the residents there without electricity and air conditioning for days. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that his call “comes on the heels” of the emergency collection for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana and held on for days before moving inland.

Harvey, too, “caused catastrophic damage and compelled us to respond,” he said. “Likewise, Hurricane Irma has been devastating and our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, especially the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and the southern U.S. need our help.”

Parishes in the Diocese of St. Cloud took up the collection for Harvey victims on the weekend of Sept. 9-10. As of Sept. 19, the Chancery had received $46,080 in hurricane relief funds from parishes, with more still coming in, said Joseph Spaniol, the diocese’s finance officer.

Hardly any place in the path of Hurricane Irma was left untouched. Its strength and size, with 120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba’s north coast, devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and targeted cities along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

In the Keys alone, at least 25 percent of the homes were destroyed and 65 percent suffered significant damage, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long. “Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted,” he told the news media.

In a Sept. 12 statement, the U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee prayed for “the safety and care of human life” after two catastrophic hurricanes ­— Irma and Harvey — and they urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as financial support and volunteer help as they can.

“The church is a channel for grace and solidarity in the wake of natural disasters as it offers solace and support in their aftermath,” Cardinal DiNardo said Sept. 14.

“However,” he said, “as is so often the case, the church itself in these regions is both a long-standing provider of aid and now is in need of tremendous assistance itself.”

Many church structures “have been damaged and their resources depleted which makes it even more challenging to provide assistance and pastoral outreach to those in need,” he added.

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