Selected Text from the December 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander
The Magazine of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
Most Rev. Herbert Bevard - PUBLISHER
Father John Matthew Fewel -EDITOR
Sarah Jane von Haack - MANAGING EDITOR
Brother James Petrait, OSFS - WEBMASTER
Msgr. Michael Kosak - PROOFREADING, Advantage Editing
Deacon Emith Fludd- CIRCULATION
Jenny Bis - GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Click on the links or scroll below for the text from the following articles from the December 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander:
About the Picture on the cover - The I.C.M. community house in Frederiksted lost most of its roof, sustaining much interior damage due to water and high wind.
From the Desk of Bishop Herbert Bevard
Reprinted here is the text from Bishop Bevard’s letter, read by him in the parishes of St. Croix, and which was sent to each parish in the diocese. In his letter, the bishop addresses matters of concern to everyone in the diocese in the wake of back-to-back, category 5 hurricanes. This unprecedented double disaster was intensified by weeks of heavy rain, curfews, shortages, school closings, curtailment of vital services, fallen powerpoles, fallen trees and blocked or washed-out roadways.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is with great concern and affection that I write to you as we enter into a time of recovery and healing after the tremendous devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
First and foremost, I urge you to join with me and the priests, deacons and sisters of the diocese as together we turn to God who is our defense against all evils and disasters. May He who is our help and our shield, bless us with His protective love and may He lead us and guide us through the days and challenges that lie ahead. Together we have suffered the terrible devastation of wind and rain, and together we have experienced the loss of homes and treasured possessions. I am aware that some families have suffered the death of a loved one during the storms. Jobs and sources of income no longer exist for many. Every one of us has suffered hardships and inconvenience. Devastation is everywhere. With the help of God and in God's good time, we will rebuild and repair. In addition to extending my love, promise of prayers and pledge of assistance to all the members of our Catholic community, I also wish to speakwords of encouragement and support to all the citizens of our territory no matter what their faith may be or what religion they may practice. May God grant His peace to all.
In such times of extreme difficulty, we realize in a very clear way, that we all share a common humanity and are obliged to love each other and care for each other as brothers and sisters. I ask for your prayers as we continue to suffer the effects of the storms and struggle to return to a normal way of life. I pray that all the members of our Church may find consolation in their faith and that they may know the power of God in their lives.
Many of our Catholic institutions sustained only minor damage. Unfortunately, two of our parishes experienced great damage to their facilities. In addition, some of our Catholic Charities facilities were badly hurt and we have had to close them temporarily. Thanks be to God that most of our facilities are functioning and are able to serve the homeless and hungry in a truly outstanding way. I am especially happy that all four of our schools survived the hurricanes and are already openand receiving students. In addition to those who were registered in one of our schools at the beginning of the school year, we are receiving children of school age, who were previously registered at other schools but cannot attend due to damage to their facilities. We will refuse no one, no matter what school they come from, no matter what religion they practice, no matter what their financial situation is.
As your bishop, I promise to do everything in my power to offer our schools as places of safety, learning and love to any person of school age. I ask God to bless our principals, administrators and teachers who did so much to prepare our facilities for such a quick opening. I thank all those who helped with this tremendous effort. I am so proud of our Catholic Charities personnel and programs. With the aid of all who work for Catholic Charities, we are housing dozens of people in our shelters every day, and hundreds and hundreds of meals are being served to those who rely on our charity.
We have so many friends near and far who love the Virgin Islands and this diocese. May God touch their hearts as we reach out to them and beg for their kindness, charity and generosity. Asking Our Lady of Perpetual Help to watch over and protect each and every one of you.
Fighting not to be forgotten — people of U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild their world
The hurricane winds of September from Irma and Maria are gone, but the people of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands are still shaken by the fury of nature. Amidst exhaustion from rebuilding, there is profound thanks for God’s mercy and love.
"They realize that God has saved them,” says Rev. Msgr. Jerome Feudjio, rector of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Thomas. "Anything could have happened to them. People survived even when the house was gone. Only God can give life.
In a world where homes and businesses were demolished by the high winds and water of Irma and Maria, people do not have the distractions of secular life. They are finding the way back to church and their Catholic community.
“It’s a fact. More people are coming to church,” Msgr. Feudjio says. “Usually right before the hurricane or after the hurricane people grab onto anything that will help them. They are putting their faith in the Lord. People are resilient, they are not giving up. In order to rebuild, they need to have God with them to keep them strong. That faith element is a very important dimension of life.”
Msgr. Feudjio believes the hurricanes reconnected many people to God as they prayed for his mercy and protection. “Suddenly there was a dialogue between people and God,” he says.Two months after the hurricanes, people of USVI are faced with an unprecedented amount of rebuilding. “It’s quite disheartening,” says Msgr. Feudjio. “People have spent years building and watch it destroyed in a day. When we started to assess the damages from place to place,sometimes you just feel like closing your eyes. We are asking people to look forward, not to look backward. We will take this as anew beginning.”
Even worse than the physical devastation was the inability of people to communicate with friends and family on USVI or on the mainland. Msgr. Feudjio was unable to reach Bishop Herbert A. Bevard after the hurricane, and had to navigate streets full of trees and debris to travel to Bishop Bevard’s residence to check on him.
“They have to clear the way for us to pass,” Msgr. Feudjio says. “What normally took twenty minutes suddenly took two hours. The concern was, how are we going to go back?”
After Irma hit, the Diocese of St. Thomas received a visit from Archbishop Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves of the Diocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Food and emergency items for the residents of USVI were delivered, but being remembered by the nearby diocese was the real gift for Virgin Islanders.
“We needed that. Everything was in the dark. The two visits that they made were very important visits,” says Msgr. Feudjio.
Following Maria’s decimation of Puerto Rico, the USVI lost the world’s attention despite the double dose of destruction the islands incurred. There is a feeling of being forgotten. Communication with the outside world is still minimal.
“What will revive our hope, is when people from different places will call. It means so much to know we are notabandoned,” Msgr. Feudjio says.
Catholic Charities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are both working hard to get USVI functioning again. Msgr. Feudjio praises the diligent work of Catholic Charities. He was able to give out the cell phone of the Catholic Charities director for those needing help.
Residents have been directed to soup kitchen and relief centers for their most basic needs. The focus is to distribute responsively and thoughtfully what is available, not to stockpile food and goods.
“People learned Catholic Charities reaches out. The money doesn’t go to pay for this program, it’s for the relief. We just don’t want to run out of things,” says Msgr. Feudjio. “We make sure they have one meal per day.”
What breaks Msgr. Feudjio’s heart amidst all the devastation is the damage to the convents belonging to the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM sisters). Both the sisters’ residence, and, the residence of the Provincial — the General Superior of the order — suffered heavy damage.
After a recent trip to Zanesville, Ind., Msgr. Feudjio was reminded of the connection and love found in the worldwide Catholic Church. The care shown by the people of Zanesville illustrated the sodality rooted in the Catholic faith. God truly loves us and makes us all a family.
St. Medard - Patron Saint of Bad Weather
St. Medard was born in 456 at Salency, Picardy, France. While there are not many detailed accounts of his life, he is widely known for his zealous and pious nature. He was ordained at age 33 and appointed bishop of Vermand, France in 530. One year later he moved his see to Noyon, France. St. Medard is one of the most honored bishops of his time. Legend has it that once an eagle protected him from the rain as a child, a scene which is often depicted in many images of St. Medard. He is know as the patron Saint of bad weather and toothaches.
Jesus my Lord, St. Medard served as a bishop during very difficult times, and his long life of spiritual leadership created a tremendous impression on the people. Because of his patronage against bad weather, I ask him to interced for me during the storms of life as well as the storms of nature. Protect me and my home. And Lord, help the victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Send in more helpers and multiply the supplies that are needed for their aid. You calmed the storm on the Sea of Galille; deliver us from the storms that are raging around us now. St. Medard, pray for us. Amen.
Hurricane Relief - Reflection by Father Kevin MacDonald, CSsR
"The wondeful secret of our faith is that we are not alone. Christ calls us to join our suffering to His. If we pray hard and sacrifice our lives to God through Mary, life will not merely return to normal, our lives will be fuller and more joy-filled than ever before."
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and with all that has happened during the last few months throughout the Caribbean, it is time to reflect on some basic truths. The first truth is that we are all connected. We know this through faith. Jesus came to save everyone, not a select few. His message is the same for the Jews as well as the Gentiles, for the rich as well as the poor, to the hurricane-ravaged victims of the Caribbean as well as to the earthquake-plagued survivors of Mexico and the fire-swept casualties of northern California. We are all one in the Body of Christ and, “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it...” (1 cor. 12:26)
Secondly, we make up in our sufferings what is lacking in the suffering of Christ. It is hard to imagine that anything is lacking in Christ, but St. Paul explains: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:24 and 29). So how can any one of us continueto moan and groan? How can we even resent the illnesses or maladies or heartaches or anxiety that eat at our flesh and sap our spirit? After all, we have been transformed into Christ. Should we not expect to live the life of the earth- bound Jesus, knowing that our lives move to the power of the resurrection only through the crucifixion?
Finally, I had the privilege to travel to two little villages in Belgium: Banneaux and Beauraing. Remarkable events happened in each of them in 1932 and 1933. The Blessed Mother Mary appeared eight times to a twelve-year-old girl named Mariette Beco in Banneaux and thirty-three times to five children in Beauraing. These visitations of our Mother Mary are not as well known as the ones in Fatima and Lourdes, but they share the same compelling message. Mary calls us to pray. “Pray hard,” Mary instructed little Mariette. She asked the five children of Beauraing, “Do you love my Son? Do you love me? Then sacrifice yourself for me.”
We have an opportunity in the recovery efforts of Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey. A return to normalcy will not be counted in days or weeks but in months and years. Everyone will be called to make sacrifices. The wonderful secret of our faith is that we are not alone. Christ calls us to join our suffering to his. If we pray hard and sacrifice our lives to God through Mary, life will not merely return to normal, our lives will be fuller and more joy-filled than ever before.
Mary, Mother of Poor, pray for us.