Call for help from the Philippines
Sister Rafaela Lázaro, a Spanish missionary of the Servants of Jesus on the Philippines has reported on the great hardship suffered by the people in the Archdiocese of Palo, which is located in the "ground zero" of the super typhoon Haiyan, which claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people.
Sister Rafaela made her report to international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The day before, Sister Rafaela had received a telephone call from the Archbishop of Palo, John F. Du, asking the Servants of Jesus for help.
"Please come quickly and bring us food!" Archbishop Du pleaded.
He had seen the destruction of 64 churches in his diocese, as well as the cathedral and the episcopal residence. "But this is not so important. I want to give my people something to eat."
In response to this cry for help, the Servants of Jesus, intend to send a number of Sisters there, including Sister Rafaela. They are to work in the Archdiocese in the health system in accordance with the charisma of the congregation.
The Sisters will be taking food with them in a number of loads using rented trucks because "the roads are difficult to negotiate. Our cars are not able to undertake such a long journey."
On top of the lack of food, medicine and other basic provisions, there has also been looting. According to Archbishop Du, bandits and guerrillas steal the humanitarian supplies to sell on the black market.
"But we can't set out to get help because the petrol is rationed. We only get 5 liters a day," the Archbishop of Palo explained.
The Servants of Jesus have asked ACN to send Bibles and the YouCat catechism.
"We are working to supply a lot of people with food. But we also want to bring the Word of God to many people who are still living in refugee camps without electricity and running water."
Sister Rafaela stressed that this was an extreme emergency and that many hands were needed to help. Even so: "The Lord will provide everything we are unable to."
The Spanish Missionary gave an assurance that the people on the Philippines had a strong faith. The disaster had brought everybody together even more closely in prayer and the sacraments.
"The people gather in the churches. The food and other supplies are distributed from there."
The Archdiocese of Palo, whose center is only 7 miles from the city of Tacloban, covers almost the whole island of Leyte and extends to the neighboring island of Samar.
In Leyte Province, the priest Pedro Valderrama celebrated Holy Mass for the first time on Philippine soil on Easter Sunday, 1521.
The present Archdiocese has one and a half million faithful, who live in 63 parishes spread over dozens of islands.
John F. Du, the Archbishop of Palo, was appointed Bishop last year, when the diocese celebrated the 75th anniversary of its foundation.
With image of Sister Rafaela Lázaro, a Spanish missionary of the Servants of Jesus, in the Philippines (© ACN).