Category Archives: Charity

Indian nuns aid migrant laborers stranded on way home during lockdown

Mothers and children wait at Kaushambi Bus Terminal on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border to go to their villages in eastern India hundreds of kilometers away. (Jessy Joseph)

New Delhi — Sr. Sujata Jena could not sleep after seeing a picture of a young girl with a heavy load on her head in a WhatsApp message. “Her stained face, wet with tears, haunted me,” the member of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary told Global Sisters Report.

The photo was being circulated to illustrate the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who hit India’s highways following a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

As Jena saw on social media platforms pictures and videos from around India, the 38-year-old lawyer and nun set out to help migrants reach home. One video clip showed 10 workers crammed into a room in Kerala, a southwestern Indian state. The men said their employer had locked them up and that they desperately needed help to reach their villages in Odisha, more than 1,000 miles northeast.

As the lockdown confined her to her convent in the Odisha capital of Bhubaneswar, Jena on May 17 joined a social media network that helps the stranded migrants.

By June 24, more than 300 migrants, including the 10, stranded in southern Indian states reached their native villages in states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal in eastern India, thanks to Jena’s efforts.

Jena is among hundreds of Catholic nuns who are on the front lines as the church reaches out to migrant laborers affected by the initial 21-day lockdown Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed on India’s 1.3 billion people from midnight of March 25 with only four hours’ notice.

The lockdown, considered the world’s largest and toughest attempt to contain the pandemic, has been extended five times with varying degrees of relaxation until July 31.

The lockdown suddenly rendered jobless millions of migrant laborers in cities.

“As they lost the job, they had no place to stay, no income and no security,” says Salesian Fr. Joe Mannath, national secretary of the Conference of Religious India, the association of men and women religious major superiors in the country.

As the lockdown halted India’s public transport system, migrant laborers in cities swarmed highways and roads within a few days. Most walked and some cycled to their native villages, hundreds of miles away.

Mannath says the fear of starvation and contracting the coronavirus led to a “chaotic exodus” of workers from cities.

Church groups are among those trying to help these workers.

On June 6, Caritas India, the Indian bishops’ aid agency, informed a webinar that the church reached more than 11 million people during the lockdown period, including many migrant workers.

Mannath, who coordinates India’s more than 130,000 religious, including nearly 100,000 women, claims the bulk of that service was carried out by the religious.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/news/indian-nuns-aid-migrant-laborers-stranded-way-home-during-lockdown

Migrant workers flood Goa beaches for jobs; sisters help them fit in

Sr. Marie Lou Barboza, left, a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation, speaks to Chandra, a migrant woman from Telangana state who now lives in Saligao, a village in Goa. (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

PANAJI, INDIA — Sr. Marie Lou Barboza was shocked to see the condition of a teenage girl one of her volunteers brought to her. The girl had burn marks on her body, and her unkempt hair was cut haphazardly. She would become hysterical when someone approached her. Barboza discovered that her condition was the result of maltreatment by her employer.

“That incident compelled us to begin our work among migrants,” the member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary told Global Sisters Report earlier this year in an interview at the congregation’s apartment in Porvorim, just north of Panaji, in Goa state.

That incident was seven years ago when Barboza was working for the National Domestic Workers’ Movement in the west coast Indian state, the country’s tourism hub that draws thousands of laborers from other regions.

Barboza’s congregation, a partner of the workers movement, sent two sisters to Goa in 2011 to aid domestic workers. Barboza joined them two years later after working with the movement in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, and Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state.

After meeting the mistreated girl, Barboza began visiting parishes and homes of migrant domestic workers in Goa. She went by herself to visit the slums, as her two elderly companions could not travel.

Later, two young nuns joined Barboza to work exclusively with about 1,600 migrants, mostly tribal women of various religions from states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana. The nuns’ three-bedroom apartment has become the meeting place for the migrants, who work in different parts of Goa, a small state.

While migrant women work as domestic help and serve in restaurants, shops and roadside kiosks, the men build houses and roads or work as waiters and bakers.

Barboza, who is 67, says many migrants refuse to join the workers movement because of threats from employers, who dislike the job demands the activists are seeking.

“We send notices to employers if they pay unjust wages,” Barboza said as she took GSR to a slum of migrant workers in Saligao, 3.5 miles from the nuns’ residence.

The nun said the migrants want to maintain their self-respect. “They are not pleased if we take photographs” of them and their families.

A 12-hour day for the sister

The nun’s weekday routine begins at 6 a.m. when she sets out with her lunchbox to visit families in the slums to help them get food and medical aid. She returns to the convent at 6 p.m., exhausted.

“My heart goes out for the migrants. They struggle for their living. They are also forced to find new places to stay every two years,” she said as we moved from one family to another. Employers keep migrants on the move, fearing that, after two years, they can claim permanent residency on their property. In addition, when new tenants come, landlords can raise the room rents.

Sunday is the busiest day for the nuns because a string of workers come with their families to chitchat with the sisters and sometimes stay for a meal. “That is our life. We have committed to serve the poor, the migrants, the domestic servants, daily laborers,” Barboza explained.

Barboza got a call one night from another teenage girl, complaining about her employer trying to molest her when his wife was away to have her baby. “I called the man and asked him to bring the girl to our residence at once. He brought her and apologized for his misbehavior. He requested me to send the girl back to work for him, but I refused.”

But her decision brought another problem for the sisters, whose quarters are limited. She had to find a place for the girl to stay at night. “There are times when we have to provide accommodation and food to such people.”

Besides attending to such problems, the nuns visit the migrants’ houses, focus on the faith formation of the Catholics among them, and create awareness about their rights.

Pushback from employers and locals

Barboza says her involvement with the migrant workers was challenging in the beginning. “It was tough to get acceptance of our mission by the employers.”

Her troubles were not limited to employers alone. Even local people and government officers ridiculed her for spending time on behalf of the migrants. They warned that the migrants would bring more like them to Goa and create problems for locals.

“They told me to find locals as domestic workers and help them first. Then look after the migrants. I took the challenge and found many local domestic workers. The government officials were willing to help them, but the local maids were not enough to meet the demand,” she said.

She says even their parish priest could not understand their involvement with the migrants, until she took the girl who had burn marks to him so that he could pray over her to dispel her fear.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/news/migrant-workers-flood-goa-beaches-jobs-sisters-help-them-fit

During pandemic, Nairobi nuns expand their reach

Sister Grace Njau, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Precious Blood, is being helped with food and hygienic items during a June 12, 2020, collection for poor and needy families in Nairobi, Kenya. (CNS/Francis Njuguna)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Normally, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood feed about 200 children in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kawangware and Riruta.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the sisters are expanding their reach.

“We are using the telephone contacts of the children to reach these poor and needy families,” Precious Blood Sister Grace Njau told Catholic News Service during a mid-June distribution.

The sisters set up distribution tents outside Amani Rehabilitation Center/Primary School, where the children normally go for breakfast and lunch.

When a name was called out, a parent or guardian would step forward to collect the packaged assorted items, gathered from donors. About 14 families received food that day.

Esther Njeri, a single mother, told CNS upon receiving her share: “I am happy with our sisters … through our children, they have fed the entire family. May the good Lord bless where this has come from.”

Hassan Kariuki Warui, a Muslim and teacher at the school, told CNS the system was designed so “that every ‘grain of wheat’ goes to the intended poor and needy family.”

Kenya’s bishops anticipated that the food needs would be great with the lockdown. In late May, they predicted the pandemic would hit the nation’s most vulnerable people the hardest, including the 2.5 million people living in informal settlements.

They asked for donations of money, food and nonfood items “to support and save the lives of the affected population. In-kind donations (dry food and nonfood items) can be channeled through our parishes, diocesan and national offices and other church institutions,” the bishops said.

By June 29, Kenya had reported more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19, but fewer than 150 deaths.

“We hope we shall go back to our system of feeding these families via their children in our rehab center and primary school when the current coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown finally come to an end,” Njau said as she helped coordinate the distribution.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/coronavirus/during-pandemic-nairobi-nuns-expand-their-reach

Catholic schools step in to feed children over summer break

Manchester United and England soccer player Marcus Rashford. Credit: Jose Breton – Pics Action/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, – England soccer star Marcus Rashford won praise when he persuaded the government Tuesday to extend a free school meal voucher scheme to cover the summer break. 

The Manchester United forward’s campaign will allow parents to claim vouchers for around 1.3 million children in England during the six-week holiday.

While Catholic charities welcomed the breakthrough, they said that the new measure alone would not be enough to ensure that children have enough to eat when schools close next month. 

Anna Gavurin, coordinator of the Caritas Food Collective at Caritas Westminster, said in a statement June 16: “In the last few weeks we have seen many schools setting up their own food banks and food parcel delivery schemes to support families who are struggling.” 

“Even with free school meal vouchers available, schools are seeing a level of need so great that they have been forced to provide direct food relief themselves.”

The Caritas Food Collective seeks to tackle food poverty across the Diocese of Westminster, which covers all of London north of the River Thames. It has been working closely during the coronavirus pandemic with St. Bernadette’s Primary School in Kenton, Harrow, a suburban area of Greater London. 

Headteacher David O’Farrell told CNA that the organization was helping him to provide food vouchers for hard-to-reach families who don’t qualify for free school vouchers.  

“Marcus Rashford was right: we can’t stop doing that in the summer holidays because that’s the worst time to turn off that tap. But the problem is that it doesn’t reach everybody because not everyone’s on the free school meals register,” he said June 16, the day of the government U-turn.

He explained that in order to qualify for free school meals families needed to meet certain conditions.  

“One of them is that you forgo your Working Tax Credit,” he said. “My parents here are predominantly in low-paid jobs, such as cleaners, pizza places, chicken shops, betting shops, these types of things.”

“If they were to accept the free school meals offer, they would lose a huge amount of working credit. So people don’t take it.”

Around five years ago, O’Farrell decided to set up a food bank at the school, which has a significant number of Romanian, Polish and Sri Lankan students, and is located in one of the poorest wards in Harrow. 

With the help of a school governor who worked in the food industry, he converted a shed into a storage room for dry foods such as pasta and rice, as well as soup. When the governor left, the local parish, All Saints, Kenton, stepped in to help. 

But at every stage, O’Farrell said, some needy families felt unable to access the food because of “this huge issue of embarrassment.” He believed that the problem could be solved if schools gave parents vouchers they could redeem at local supermarkets. 

The Caritas Food Collective asked him to put his idea down in writing.
 
“I wrote it and I didn’t think I was going to hear [any more] about it,” he said. “Then all of a sudden we had lockdown and they wrote to me saying that they had put the plan into place. We were eligible for £500 worth of vouchers, which we’ve used. And we’re now on our second lot of £500.” 

“I reckon we’re supporting about 25 families at the moment. Every day now we have two or three families coming to use our food bank.”

He described the plight of one family which was made homeless recently when the landlord increased their rent. They were rehoused in a neighboring borough. O’Farrell sent the mother vouchers and invited her to visit the school food bank. When she collected the food, she broke down in tears.

“It was just the first act of kindness she had received,” he said. “She was so relieved because she was at the end of her tether. That was in week two or three of lockdown.”

Asked what motivated him to find new ways to help families, O’Farrell said: “Christian values are very important to me and very important to the way we run the school. It’s also my upbringing as well. I had to stand in the free school meals line with a different colored ticket to everyone else.

“But looking at these poor children, they are worse off. It’s our duty as Catholics, as Christians, to do something about it.”

O’Farrell underlined his gratitude to Caritas Westminster for its emergency food voucher scheme.

He said: “They’ve been brilliant. There’s an email here from Anna [Gavurin] saying that on Friday we’re getting a Hasbro toy delivery, because she’s got a link with them. So some of our children will be going home with brand new toys on Friday, which is lovely.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-schools-step-in-to-feed-children-over-summer-break-48402

Cardinal Turkson delivers face masks, care packages to Romani families

Cardinal Turkson visits a Romani camp in Castel Romano June 13, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, – Cardinal Peter Turkson delivered face masks and care packages over the weekend to Romani families in need on the outskirts of Rome on behalf of Pope Francis.

“We are here today to witness the support for all those who experience situations of suffering and vulnerability, and who are often forgotten, especially in this time of health, social and economic emergency,” Cardinal Turkson said following the visit June 13.

“As Pope Francis often repeats, no one should be left behind,” he said.

Cardinal Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, met with volunteers of a non-profit association that provides 200-300 weekly food packages for the children who live in Romani camps and slums. The cardinal then visited a Romani camp outside of Rome in Castel Romano to help deliver some of the food packages. 

The Romani, often called “gypsies” and known as “travelers” in much of Europe, form a marginal and minority people present in countries across the continent. 

Pope Francis has met with members of Rome’s Romani community on several occasions, continuing a tradition of Pope Paul VI who visited a Romani camp near Rome in 1965.

The risk of malnutrition among the Romani children in the camps was heightened by the coronavirus pandemic, a statement from the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development said.

Turkson distributed 300 vinyl gloves, 600 surgical masks, 200 fabric masks, and 500 packs of acetaminophen donated by the Vatican Pharmacy as a part of the dicastery’s Vatican commission for COVID-19.

The Vatican commission for COVID-19, created at the request of Pope Francis, was formed “to express the concern and love of the Church for the whole human family in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, above all through the analysis and reflection on the socio-economic and cultural challenges of the future and the proposal of guidelines to face them.”

During his visit to the Romani community, Cardinal Turkson communicated Pope Francis’ feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal embrace in this difficult time to all of the volunteers, families, and children at the camp, acccording to a June 13 press statement issued by the Dicastery.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-cardinal-peter-turkson-delivers-face-masks-care-packages-to-romani-families-14420

A look at a home for the elderly in Kenya during pandemic

An elderly man washes his hands with soap to protect against coronavirus infection at the Cheshire Home for the Elderly located in the Kariobangi slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya. (Doreen Ajiambo)

Phylis Nyambura sits on a plastic chair, pensive and alone in the shade of a tree at Cheshire Home for the Elderly in the Kariobangi slum northeast of Nairobi. With an effortless click, Nyambura shoots a jet of saliva through the gap between her two front teeth, before she begins to lament how her social life has changed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’m told it’s a bad disease that kills old people in minutes,” the 80-year-old said in Kikuyu, her native language. “Everyone here is avoiding me. They cannot even allow me to see my daughter and grandson when they come to visit me here. My life has completely changed.”

Nyambura, who arrived at the home four years ago, suffers from dementia (loss of cognitive functioning)  and behavioral disabilities to such an extent that it interferes with her daily life and activities.

She has been experiencing increased feelings of confusion, paranoia and delusion during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in 2,862 cases, 85 deaths and 849 recoveries, as of June 9 in Kenya, according to Worldometers, a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics.

“I don’t know what’s happening nowadays,” said Nyambura, gasping for breath as she struggles to lean on the chair. “We are told to wash our hands all the time, even when we are not eating. I feel very bad, isolated and confused.”

The home, run by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa, used to be a hive of activity. More than 300 men and women of advanced age would meet their relatives and lifelong friends every day. They would share meals and pray together.

But the place is now empty since Kenya has adopted strict measures to counter the spread of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The government has suspended travel in and out of the country, banned religious and social gatherings, and imposed a nationwide curfew between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.

In the countrywide fight against the pandemic, the sisters have rolled out a series of strict measures and supportive human services to safeguard the elderly from the virus.

This is because the new disease presents specific risks for older people. Preliminary research from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, based on more than 44,000 cases of COVID-19, showed a mortality rate of 2.3% for the general population, rising to 8% in those aged 70 to 79 and nearly 15% in those 80 and over.

“Strict isolation is the only way to protect these elderly men and women,” said Sr. Lydia D’sa, who is the administrator of the home. “We have already made changes to provide for social distancing. We told them they could not watch television inside the hall because of space, so they usually watch from outside. Prayers are done outside as well for the sake of distancing.”

The home was built in 1980 with the help of HelpAge International to cater for the destitute and homeless elderly members of society. In recent years, however, the home has come under pressure from those who have families but want to be admitted.

Currently, the home is a permanent residence for 40 elderly men and women and has a day care program for about 300 people from the neighboring slum areas, mostly suffering from leprosy, post-polio paralysis and blindness. It provides a two-pronged care program: Those who are weak and feeble who require nursing care reside in the home and those who capable of carrying out their daily personal care taking part of the day care program.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/people/look-home-elderly-kenya-during-pandemic

Sisters take food pantry ministries outdoors during pandemic

When the food pantry run by the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago had to be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the sisters moved it outside so that, with social distancing, masks and gloves, they could continue to distribute food. (Courtesy of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago)

Sr. Stephanie Baliga had a problem: The Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago’s food pantry was shut down by restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but the need for food in the neighborhood was greater than ever.

So she found a way. And as sisters are doing across the country under challenges imposed by COVID-19, when she ran into still more challenges, she got creative.

Nationwide, millions of people have lost jobs as employers closed or cut back, making the need for food and other support greater than ever, and Catholic women religious have answered the call in myriad ways.

The weekly food pantry at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood normally serves about 225 people, Sister Stephanie said, but the need for food had doubled. So the sisters moved the pantry outside.

Because social distancing requirements meant patrons would not be able to pick and choose their own food, it all had to be prepackaged. At the same time, the sisters couldn’t allow most of their volunteers to help.

So all nine sisters in the small community, founded in 2010, pitched in to help.

“Everyone’s here,” Sister Stephanie said. “We’re very, very limited on volunteers, so it’s a lot of work.”

They did get some unexpected volunteers: the Chicago Police Department.

Even with moving the pantry outside and keeping everyone 6 feet apart, many senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems could not risk exposure. Likewise, those who are homebound discovered many of the services they rely on had been shut down. So the police loaded up a vehicle with more than 100 bags of food and delivered them to those in need.

“The city and the [police] department as a whole is going through a difficult period and this neighborhood, which is one of the more challenged communities within the city as we see it, needs all the help they can get,” Lt. Jason Brown told the Chicago Tribune in late March. “We’re kind of in uncharted waters. I think given that, we have to take a different approach to how we police and what policing really means.”

Sister Stephanie said working with the police is not unusual at the mission, and that has not changed even after a weekend of destruction in Chicago that left 20 dead, sparked by protests over the death of George Floyd.

“They’re absolute heroes,” she said of the police in the neighborhood.

Sister Stephanie said the Mission’s buildings were the only ones not damaged over the weekend, and that the neighborhood was largely destroyed.

“This is one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the United States of America, so we were not in a good place before this [pandemic] started.”

City of Chicago statistics show 34% of households in Humboldt Park are below the federal poverty level of $26,200 for a family of four. Per capita income there is about half that figure, and 35% of those 25 years or older do not have a high school diploma.

The pantry work has become all-consuming, Sister Stephanie said, but it hasn’t been a problem because almost all of the community’s other ministries have been shut down.

In Detroit, two Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice, known as the Felician Sisters, also found themselves running a food pantry.

Previously, the ministry of Sr. Felicity Marie Madigan and Sr. Shelley Marie Jeffrey focused on hospitality: They opened the Deo Gratias Café in late January in the parish center at St. Jude Catholic Church, a place where they could build relationships with the community.

“We were just getting to really know some people when the pandemic put a kibosh on those kinds of activities,” Jeffrey said.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/coronavirus/news/sisters-take-food-pantry-ministries-outdoors-during-pandemic

Salesians in Bogota aid poor families hard hit by COVID lockdown

Food delivery to families of Salesian oratory children. Credit: Marcos Chero.

Bogotá, Colombia, – Salesian ministries in Bogota, Colombia, have joined forces to feed the families of the children and young people they serve at the Saint Francis de Sales Oratory youth center, which they run in the poor, crime ridden Las Cruces neighborhood.

In late March, the government ordered a lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown left many street vendors, recyclers, cleaning staff and other laborers out of work.

With the lockdown extended into June, many poor families are finding themselves running out of food and funds for other necessities.

While the government has offered some support to those in need, many people are still in serious need of assistance.

To respond to this need, especially for food, the Salesian Leo XIII School community has partnered with the Salesian Ladies’ Divine Child Center, the Order of Malta and a local food bank to offer care packages with basic necessities and food to families in need.

Leading the Salesian effort is Marcos Chero, a Peruvian teacher at the Leo XIII School.  Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Cheo said he was motivated to take on the project after successfully working with the school in 2017 to deliver 700 care packages to the victims of devastating flash floods and landslides that took place in the town of Mocoa in the country’s southwest.

“If we were able to put together care packages three years ago, with this situation we’re going through, why can’t we do it again?” Chero said.

In the initial effort, school parents, alumni, teachers and other members of the Salesian community were able to deliver 200 care packages to needy families in the area. They were then joined by the Salesian Ladies’ Divine Child Center. Several additional food distributions for 80-120 families have taken place in the weeks that followed, with the next one scheduled for June 6.

The National Police have been making the deliveries, taking all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Chero said the plan going forward is to make deliveries every three weeks “because we know that the coronavirus situation is going to last a long time. And so we’re always looking for help, we’re knocking on doors, seeking out institutions and businesses to collaborate with us.”

Chero himself received training as a boy at a Salesian oratory in Peru and admired the spirit of the congregation founded by St. Don Bosco “to work for the very poor and abandoned.”

“There’s a very beautiful saying of Don Bosco that has marked me, and I take it as a motto, an insignia, which is, ‘The Lord has put us in this world to serve others’,” he shared.

The teacher said he is also planning a project to raise funds to buy the technology so students can participate in distance learning, which is currently limited.

The Divine Child Center, founded by the Salesian Ladies Association, is staffed by lay women volunteers who put on sporting and cultural activities and provide formation in values, helping children and young people living in the poor areas of Bogota become good citizens and avoid the dangers of the street.

The Salesian Ladies is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 in Caracas, Venezuela, by Salesian priest Fr. Miguel Gonzalez. Through Christian education and evangelization, these Catholic women help low income people especially women, young people and children who are abandoned, in dangerous situations, or in jail.

They currently run 33 centers in Colombia, in addition to another 145 centers in 27 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/salesians-in-bogota-aid-poor-families-hard-hit-by-covid-lockdown-85277

Catholic aid groups provide relief to those affected by Cyclone Amphan

Residents survey damage left by Cyclone Amphan in Gobardanga, West Bengal, India, May 21, 2020. Credit: Boby Ortain/Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, – Catholic Relief Services is among the agencies providing aid to those impacted by Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and eastern India. The storm killed at least 96, millions were evacuated, and Kolkata was devastated.

The cyclone made landfall in India May 20, and it dissipated the following day. It brought winds of as much at 160 mph, and waves up to 15 feet.

Kolkata, a city of 4.5 million, was without power for at least 14 hours, and its roads were flooded.

“Initially they were not willing to evacuate, because they were weighing between the risk of the cyclone and the invisible risk of Covid-19,” Snigdha Chakroborty, CRS’ Bangladesh country director, told PBS NewsHour May 20 of local residents.

“They do not have income, they do not have homes, they also lost their crops in the field. So basically it a devastating and painful situation that they will have to live with now.”

CRS and Caritas have indicated there are immediate needs for shelter, potable water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Ahead of the storm, the groups indicated they had “pre-positioned emergency supplies” and were “supporting efforts to clean evacuation centers and procure critically needed supplies in local markets.”

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta has asked Church officials to open their facilities to those rendered homeless by the cyclone, according to UCA News. The “top priority is to arrange food for so many people who have lost everything,” he told the independent Catholic news source.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-aid-groups-provide-relief-to-those-affected-by-cyclone-amphan-78538

DC parish fills pews with food for parishioners in need

Pew
Parish of the Sacred Heart, Washington, DC. Courtesy image.

– Public masses remain suspended in the Archdiocese of Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the pews at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart are not empty.

Priests, parishioners, and staff at Sacred Heart Parish recently assembled 500 boxes of food and other resources to be delivered to families facing hardships like job loss or illness during the pandemic. Fr. Emilio Biosca Agüero, the parish’s pastor, told CNA in an interview that the needs he sees are immediate.

Agüero said Sacred Heart, which serves the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods of Washington D.C., is a primarily Spanish-speaking community, and has many immigrant members.

“When many immigrants arrive to DC, Sacred Heart is one of the first places they visit,” he said.

Agüero said the pandemic hit the parish community hard.

“When the pandemic started, people began losing their jobs, some of them are undocumented so that presents a challenge in finding other work as well, others have been affected by COVID-19,” he said.

Agüero called the boxes “a gesture from the Church,” and added that in addition to food, they include spiritual resources like rosaries and prayer cards, as well as information about local food banks and coronavirus testing sites.

Sacred Heart parishioner Carola Cerezo-Allen said in an interview that she wants her fellow parishioners to know that “the temple doors are closed, but we are with them even though we cannot be together.”

“Sacred Heart is a big church, and so we came together as a community to walk with people in our community facing disease and unemployment,” she said. “It’s what we need in this time of so much anxiety.”

Cerezo-Allen said she hopes a time many Catholics are unable to receive communion will prompt them to think about what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

She stressed that those who assembled the boxes maintained social distancing guidelines and they will also deliver boxes to parishioners rather than having people come to the church.

“I’m a nurse, so I’m very aware of what’s needed,” Cerezo-Allen said.

Monica Zevallos is Sacred Heart’s RCIA coordinator and a member of the parish staff. She helped assemble the boxes and told CNA she is proud of the “teamwork” the parish showed by working to support members of their community in need.

“This is a very strong community, this is not a parish where people come and go,” Zevallos said.

Zevallos said she was moved to see parishioners bringing in small donations for the project because it was what they could offer.

“It’s beautiful seeing people do what they can, that’s how we are building these baskets,” she said.

Agüero, Cerezo-Allen, and Zevallos all stressed that many members of the parish contributed to the project, and mentioned parishioners Juan Melendez and Javier Alvarez as additional leaders of the project.

Being Catholic, Zevallos said, isn’t “just praying, it’s putting our faith in action.”

“This is a way to let them know Christ loves us, is walking with us, and this little thing–these boxes–are a way to say He’s going to take care of us,” Zevallos said.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/dc-parish-fills-pews-with-food-for-parishioners-in-need-62813