Fr. Aristelo Miranda, MI – CTF Philippines (in the USA from July to October 2009 doing MCP fundraising)
Last Sunday (Sept. 13), here at St. John Catholic Church in Port Arthur, TX , I presided at the Eucharist in commemoration of the 1st year anniversary of Hurricane Ike. This devastating disaster left serious damage to the life and property of much of the community of Port Arthur. I never thought of the disaster until I met Deacon Willie Posey who took me out last Saturday afternoon and brought me to the places that incurred heavy damage. I could still see the damaged houses, many of which are now abandoned. Port Arthur has suffered from two great hurricanes: Ike (2008) and Rita (2005 ) Hurricane Rita. The following day (Sunday) I presided at the Eucharist in two different churches (St. John’s and St. Paul’s). I had a chance to listen to many stories. I was touched in particular by the story of one lady from Sabine Pass. This town was severely affected by Hurricane Ike, but the people responded as a community in a marvelous way. The lady in Sabine Pass recounted how this was already the third time that she had to rebuild her house and her family. She took it as a sort of renewal of her faith in God and a thanksgiving for keeping her family still alive. Another sad story was what happened to the St. Paul mission church in Sabine Pass. It was heavily damaged by hurricane Rita in 2005, and it took them almost three years to rebuild the church. Finally in January 2008 the church was re-consecrated by the bishop together with the 23 families of the church and some members of the main parish of St. John. Then eight months later Hurricane Ike unleashed his wrath on Sabine Pass and not even one of the posts of the church was left standing. They were only able to salvage the tabernacle. Now only five family members are left in that church and they still meet each other on Sunday for the Eucharist. What is more interesting is that they are celebrating the Eucharist in the Anabaptist hall. Three different faiths take turns worshipping the Lord in that hall (Methodist, Baptist, Catholic). Sometimes great disasters can initiate occasions for solidarity and communion.
I was so privileged to celebrate and pray with the victims of Hurricane Ike. I was in a bit of a dilemma for a while not knowing whether I would make a fundraising appeal knowing that they themselves were still in the process of rebuilding and slowly getting away from their temporary shelters. Nevertheless, I went on as I normally do in my appeals. I noticed that it was just easy for me to talk about our mission (CTF-SOS DRS) since the people in Port Arthur and Sabine Pass could easily identify with what I was talking about. These people have treasured much the experience of solidarity and communion from people all over the world in the wake of the calamities that they have experienced. That gave them the strength to move on and hope to hang on. And it challenges them to share these treasures with those hopeless victims of man-made and natural disasters elsewhere. God indeed works and His presence is abundantly felt – especially in moments of helplessness and sufferings.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera to Port Arthur. I didn’t foresee the disaster anniversary. But I was able to see a lot of the city, its natural riches, the oil and marine resources and the damages brought about by Hurricanes Rita and Ike. Most importantly I spent time with the Christian community whose faith and prayers are the only weapons they have against all these natural calamities. Staying in Port Arthur for one week and celebrating the Eucharist with them everyday has been a truly unforgettable experience. Although I don’t have any visual memories (pictures), they are all written in my heart. (Fr. Aris Miranda, MI)