.- The Salesian religious order is responding to Typhoon Haiyan as Catholics around the world voice their prayers and support for the massive storm's victims.
“Salesians were on the ground and able to respond immediately,” Father Mark Hyde, executive director of the U.S.-based Salesian Missions, said Nov. 12. “But they need additional help and we are responding to that call.”
The Salesian missionaries in the Philippines are planning to help 8.5 million people affected by the typhoon. The missionaries are providing food, water and tents for temporary shelters.
More than 600,000 people have been displaced by the typhoon and more than 10,000 may have been killed, the Associated Press reports. The central eastern islands of Samar and Leyte were the hardest hit.
Immediately after the typhoon passed, Salesian missionaries, students and volunteers prepared an initial 30,000 relief packages. Salesian schools and other buildings are serving as a shelters. The Salesians have also designated 11 drop-off centers across the Philippines to receive donations.
The typhoon cut off communications to some Salesian-supported communities.
Fr. George P. Militante from Cebu said that Salesians have been trying to connect to others to help relief operations.
“We are hearing that the basic needs for food, water, tarps and temporary shelters are the priorities,” he said.
The Salesians have also been helping victims of the Oct. 15 earthquake. The religious order has been aiding vulnerable children and families in the Philippines since 1950.
U.S. partners of Salesian Missions will ship over 285,000 rice meals and medical supplies to the country next week. Shoes and soccer balls will also be shipped to the typhoon victims. The soccer balls are intended to help restore a sense of normalcy by allowing children and youths to play.
Salesian Missions is part of the worldwide Salesian NGO federation the Don Bosco Network. The U.S. organization is raising funds for relief supplies through the website www.salesianmissions.org/typhoon.
As aid continues to pour in to the Philippines, Catholics continue to mourn the dead and encourage the living.
In New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Filipino Apostolate will hold a Mass of Healing and Hope on Nov. 17 at St. Michael’s Church in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens.
“We are taking this opportunity to pray as a community for those who have been affected by the Typhoon not just in the Philippines but those living here in the United States,” Fr. Patrick Longalon, coordinator of the apostolate, said Nov. 17.
He said many Filipinos in the diocese had heard “good news” about their families, others received “heartbreaking news” that their loved ones had died, while some are still awaiting news. Some Filipinos in the U.S. cannot travel home for funerals because of immigration issues.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said the entire diocese is “mourning” with those who have lost loved ones.
Other expressions of support came from all parts of the world, including the long-suffering South Sudan.
Fr. Mark Opere Omol, a spokesman for the Diocese of Torit in South Sudan, sent a Nov. 11 letter to the Philippines voicing Christians’ “profound grief” at the loss of life and “heartfelt condolences” to survivors.
“(T)he gruesome typhoon can never, in any way, wipe away the hope and strength of goodwill of the populations of the Philippines,” he said. “The faith and hope in God remain strong and a source of consolation to all.”
“We are united in raising prayers to the merciful God for the souls of the deceased and invoking solace and courage to those in mourning,” Fr. Omol told Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Fr. Omol voiced hope that the international community and international charities will respond quickly to help typhoon victims.
He said such disasters are occasions to intensify a “spirit of solidarity and generosity.”