One of the wonderful aspects of the privilege of serving as bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg has been how generously our people have responded to emergencies and disasters in our own country and throughout the world. I shall never forget that in one nine month span of time Catholics in this diocese contributed 1.7 million dollars to CRS for tsunami relief in the area of the Indian Ocean (that was in early January) and then turned around and contributed an additional 2.1 million for relief the the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Likewise your response to the Haitian earthquake has also been very admirable. One thing which has always helped when I appeal has been the attention the media, radio, television and the electronic media have shed on the human suffering. moving you beyond my words to want to help.
This week-end in conjunction with your pastors we will be appealing for your generosity once again for a disaster of gigantic proportions but which has not received the notice of the media that those I mentioned above received – the famine and drought in Somalia and East Africa. I am told by Catholic Relief Services that tens of thousands of people are on the move in search of sufficient food and water to sustain life. Without it, they know they will die. Thousands already have.
Catholic Relief Services has been on the ground and present in Somalia for some time now and their staff has been warning us of the growing scope of the disaster. They say that it will take about eighty million dollars of aid from our country and others to save the lives which are at risk as I write this. With all the arguing in Congress about debt ceiling and budget cutbacks, our governments normally generous response to prior emergencies like this is embarrassing. So someone has to stand up and feed the starving and give water to the thirsty. I ask your help once again and even in our own hard economic times, this challenge ranks up there with the famous Ethiopian famine in the mid-eighties of the last century as a killer of enormous proportions. What follows is the letter which I hope will be in every parish bulletin this week-end or read aloud in every Church. Think and pray about it and then join me in helping our sisters and brothers in the horn of Africa.
August 11, 2011
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
From time to time I have written to ask your generous response to a major disaster somewhere in the world or in our own country. Specifically I recall your incredible charity at the time of the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Hurricane Katrina later that same year and more recently the earthquake and consequent devastation in nearby Haiti.
Less well known but of disastrous consequence is the current famine and drought in Somalia and eastern Africa where millions of people have already been forced from their homes, migrating in search of food and water. I believe that this situation is at least as bad if not worse than the famine and drought which hit Ethiopia in 1984 and 1985 resulting in major loss of life. Even though we as a nation remain in the grips of a recession of our own, the pain, suffering and needless loss of life pales in comparison to the present situation in the horn of Africa.
Consequently, I am asking all pastors of parish churches and administrators of our institutions to appeal for special help through special collections to address the desperate needs of the Somalis and others. Catholic Relief Services is “on the ground in these areas/countries providing assistance with present but dwindling resources. They have an outstanding record of success in these situations.
Please be as generous as you can once again in responding to this appeal and be assured that once again we can make a difference. Then you and I can hear the words of Christ, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.” [Mt. 25:35]
All collections will be sent immediately by the diocese to Catholic Relief Services with the specific intention to be used for famine and drought relief. Thank you once again in advance for your mercy and kindness.
Sincerely yours in Christ,