Persons, places and things: Disaster relief reminds us we belong to the family of God


Days after watching a video Bishop Robert Gruss posted on Facebook about a natural disaster in South Dakota, I saw TV news reports on the natural disaster that blasted the Philippines. The South Dakota video showed hundreds of dead cattle, some still half-covered with the remnants of an unusually early blizzard in October. The video from the Philippines Nov. 8 showed distraught men, women and children running through island communities that looked as if they had been bombed.
In the Diocese of Davenport we have a particular connection to South Dakota through Bishop Robert Gruss, a priest from our diocese who now serves as Bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City. Our connection to the Philippines is Father Joseph Sia, who has family members still living there, but fortunately they were not in harm’s way.
We have an even greater connection to the people in both of these devastated areas as children of God. Through the years, as I’ve become more attentive to God’s presence in my life, these connections to my fellow human beings become more solid. Images from South Dakota and the Philippines troubled me as I thought about the people left behind in both disasters, struggling to pick up the pieces.
Ranchers in South Dakota impacted by Storm Atlas are said to be in dire straits because of the financial loss of the cattle, their livelihood. News reports from the Philippines say the survivors on the islands hardest hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan — an estimated 9.5 million people — are in desperate need of food, water and shelter. The typhoon also struck Vietnam.
One image that pulled at my heartstrings is a CNN website photo showing a woman in the Philippines standing in line holding a baby and comforting a young man who is crouched down beside her and crying. The desire to help each one, immediately, is overwhelming.
As an individual, I pray daily for the victims of these natural disasters and I can contribute to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which in cooperation with partners, will provide 1000,000 families in the Philippines with shelter, essential living supplies and clean water and sanitation. CRS has pledged to identity the most vulnerable communities needing assistance and to be involved in long-term rebuilding efforts.
Bishop Martin Amos is asking the parishes of our diocese to consider adding a special collection to benefit Super Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts between now and Christmas. Checks should be made payable to the Diocese of Davenport with “CRS Typhoon Relief” on the memo line.
As for the ranchers impacted by Storm Atlas in South Dakota (Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and parts of North Dakota also were impacted), National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) asks for prayers and for financial support. “As it stands now, many ranch families are in despair emotionally. They will need counseling and spiritual support both as a community and as individuals,” NCRLC reported on its website (
The Diocese of Davenport has made a contribution to relief efforts being undertaken in the Diocese of Rapid City.
While alleviating the suffering of the victims of these two disasters may seem overwhelming, we can make a difference as a community of faith.

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