By Fr. Giovanni Manco, PIME
What started as just another rainy weekend became more tragic than we could have imagined. Starting on Saturday, September 14 rains poured on our shores, creating devastating scenarios. Our people are suffering greatly, but we are currently facing the situation with hope, even amid tragedy and pain.
The Archdiocese of Guerrero, Mexico (Acapulco) has been hit hard by the rains caused by tropical storm “Manuel.” This storm caused one of the greatest catastrophes ever for us here in the state of Guerrero; more than 100 people lost their lives and many, many others lost their homes and all of their belongings. Throughout history there have been many disasters caused by earthquakes, floods, fires, tsunamis, etc. which have their origin in nature’s strength. It is in these situations when man realizes his vulnerability, but also when something else become particularly clear in the depths of his being: his love of neighbor, expressed in attitudes of solidarity, generosity, closeness, support, and service. We all know the emergency situation we are experiencing in this country, especially in the state of Guerrero, due to rains dumped more than a month ago by the storm Manuel and then Hurricane Ingrid. The official data report presented by the authorities speaks of the magnitude of the damage caused by these storms. With the passage of time the data will go on changing, because we are still far from knowing the total count of the damages, which probably exceeded any preliminary calculation. We must also consider that the figures used relate only to material damage, which while important, is not the only damage suffered. The impact will create deep psychological, cultural, and spiritual wounds. These realities must be dealt with promptly so that the individuals and families can truly recover.
It is in these circumstances when our love for those brothers and sisters who are in the greatest need of our support emerges and transforms their lives. This is when we should awaken our sensitivity to the pain of others and offer ourselves at their service. We must strive to live Christian charity at the highest level that we can. We have an opportunity to live our lives as is mentioned in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, realizing that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts: 20:35). It is in this situation, more than at other times, when our Christian spirit should be evident, not giving what is left over, but detaching from anything that we can make available to others. We must all contribute to the families affected and subsequently rebuild as soon as possible a normal rhythm of life.
At this point we are working to donate food, clothing, and the most basic necessities, but eventually the time will come when we shall have to think about and take care of the psychological and spiritual health of those affected, depending on the extent of damage they have suffered. We have all been witnesses of what will be a bitter memory in the history of Mexico and Guerrero. Some people lost their land, their businesses, and their livestock but at least have some family support to rely on. Others will have to begin alone, because their family members died and will not return to start again. These will live with the memory of the tragedy and also carry on in the absence of a son or daughter, a wife or husband, a mother or a father.
On World Mission Sunday of this year, Pope Francis called the whole Church to be missionary to the ends of the earth, to rediscover the love of God for our brothers, especially the poor, sick and helpless. Let’s respond to the words of Pope Francis to show that we are authentic disciples of Love. We can assist these thousands of victims in Mexico. Brothers and friends, we are doing our best, helping not only with material things and what is really necessary, but we help also with our prayers. We are trying to open our hands to those who suffer and offer our homes to the homeless. Love moves us. We do not have major strategies for handling disasters; what we have is hearts that are generous and open to love.
The Archdiocese of Acapulco is offering some aid to our people affected by the storms. For the duration of the emergency situation we PIME Missionaries in Guerrero are giving priority to disaster assistance. The first action we took was to make a collection of foodstuffs through the parishes. The second action was to accompany and offer support for families affected, helping them to ask for and manage the assistance they require. In this case we are developing a process of community solidarity for neighbors or affected communities to organize and support each other throughout the emergency. The third action is the spiritual guidance of individuals and communities affected. We know that faith becomes very important in times of distress and may inspire comfort, courage, and hope to those who are suffering. Parishes are providing appropriate ways to approach people and encourage them in the faith. The fourth action is to seek collaborations with public and social institutions that can provide efficient service for the victims. We are willing to support government actions intended to benefit the victims and to collaborate with institutions and civil society organizations, because we know that this collaboration will assist those affected. We are certain that international solidarity will not fail, and that the faithful around the world will assist us, as a sign of a people that is not closed to the pains of their needy brothers and sisters who want to rebuild their lives.
The PIME Missionaries are Catholic priests and brothers who commit themselves to lifelong missionary services, but they can’t do alone. Will you help PIME Missionaries make a difference in crossing cultures and transforming lives through the Gospel?
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