WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Priests and the faithful of the Edmonton Archdiocese packed St. Theresa Church for a Nov. 13 Mass in solidarity with the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
About 40,000 Filipinos call Edmonton home. Hundreds of them and other Catholics jammed St. Theresa Church Nov. 13, to pray for their homeland, devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in early November.
The images on TV depicting the devastation in the Philippines following the dreadful typhoon - known locally as Yolanda - left people in awe of the power of nature.
The unprecedented storm is being deemed one of the most powerful storms ever to strike the planet. More than 4,500 people were killed, an estimated 9.5 million people are in need of aid across nine provinces, and about 600,000 people have been forced from their homes.
Sister Cornelia Ramirez, with Religious of the Virgin Mary, does sacramental preparation at St. Theresa Parish. She knows of many Filipino families in the city.
"We have been communicating with our sisters in the Philippines. We have big schools on those islands. Thanks be to God, they are okay," said Ramirez.
The money collected at the Mass was to be forwarded to Development and Peace, which in turn channels it to a Catholic partner agency on the ground in the affected areas.
Development and Peace has a long history of working in the Philippines and has already committed $100,000 to support relief efforts. Donations made to Development and Peace for relief efforts prior to Dec. 9 are eligible for the matching fund program announced by the Canadian government.
"It shows the concern of the archbishop and the people around here. The Government of Canada is very generous," said Ramirez.
The organization will be coordinating the distribution of food and shelter for victims of this catastrophe.
Arsenio Macabuhay is not Catholic, and he no longer has any family living in the Philippines. Yet he said he felt compelled to be in unity with the people praying at the Mass.
"People had their homes damaged or destroyed, loved ones lost," said Macabuhay. "I can't do anything to change those things. But what I can do is come here and pray and give money to the cause."
In his homily, Archbishop Richard Smith said the Mass was an expression of solidarity of the archdiocese and the whole Church with the people of the Philippines living both in Edmonton and the Philippines.
In a pre-Mass interview, the archbishop told reporters that the image of Jesus on the cross assures us that God now hears our cries, and the cries of our suffering brothers and sisters in the Philippines.
"In faith we gaze upon another image that we know has a power far beyond anything in nature, and that draws us together in a way that transforms sorrow and fear into peace and hope. And that is the image of Jesus crucified for us upon the cross," said Smith.
The archbishop said everyone is called by God to help those in need. Help and hope is brought to those in the Philippines through many charitable organizations.
"In moments of tragedy we naturally cling to one another. The image of Jesus crucified and risen invites us at the time to cling to him and from him to draw real strength and hope," he said.
He asked those present to pray daily for the people of the Philippines. No prayer, he said, is more powerful than that of the Eucharist.
"We unite our offering to his, and ask that the power of his death and resurrection, the power of divine love and mercy, be poured out in abundance upon those who are suffering and carry to heaven those who have so tragically been taken from us," said the archbishop.
Donations can be made by telephone (1-888-664-3387), online (www.devp.org) or by sending a cheque made out to Development and Peace and indicating Philippines Typhoon to: Development and Peace, 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd. West. 3rd Floor, Montreal H3G 1T7.