By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published November 21, 2013
ATLANTA—Parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta have already or soon will be taking up a special collection for Catholic Relief Services’ work in assisting Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines and Vietnam.
The collection, requested by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be used for immediate relief and also for the future rebuilding of the churches in the affected areas.
The super storm, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, hit Nov. 8. Catholic Relief Services has already sent more than 20,000 tarps, fresh water and sanitation kits, and is constructing emergency shelters. CRS has committed to providing $20 million in aid, counting on donations from U.S. Catholics to reach that goal.
The official Philippine death toll stood at 3,976, as of Nov. 19. The number of displaced persons is now more than 4 million, and the total number of people affected is 10.4 million.
Father Chito Palang, parochial vicar at St. James the Apostle Church in McDonough, was the celebrant of a special Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Friday, Nov. 15, for the victims.
Elsie Medina Vidanes, president of the Filipino-American Association of Greater Atlanta, said the liturgy, attended by Ray Donato, Philippine honorary consul general in Atlanta, and other diplomatic corps members, was very supportive.
“It was the first Filipino Mass ever held at the Cathedral with Filipino Eucharistic ministers, lectors and altar servers. The response of the Filipino community was overwhelming with about 300 attendees,” said Vidanes. “We were very fortunate to have had the support of Msgr. Frank McNamee through the efforts of Reina Pantaleon, to hold the Mass in the cathedral at such short notice.”
A vigil Mass for the afflicted region was also celebrated Nov. 16 by Father Sunny Punnakuziyil, pastor of St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn.
Father Palang, a native of the Philippines, has been in touch with his family in Cebu, an area away from the storm’s center of Tacloban. He said his younger brother’s family was affected with some property damage. “But all of them are safe and well,” he said.
The priest is getting most of his news through the media like everyone else.
“I pretty much follow the daily reports,” he said.
Father Palang said that St. James the Apostle has approximately 15 parishioners who have relatives living in the storm-ravaged region, but none of them have reported deaths of loved ones.
Filipino-American Beth Villanueva, a parishioner at Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain, believes one powerful way of helping is through prayers. In an email, Villanueva encouraged all to ask “our Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, for her intercession” as she has interceded before for the Filipino people.
“For 30 days from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, we ask that you pray the rosary every day … (or whatever day or days you can do) … between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. wherever you are,” wrote Villanueva. “We also ask that you tell your friends and family here in the United States and other parts of the world to pray the rosary for 30 days.”
The Filipino-American Association is focusing its efforts on reconstruction of Bethany Hospital in Tacloban, Leyte, one of the major hospitals there. With the help of Makabayan Georgia, Inc., a nonprofit charity created by former association presidents, it also hopes to purchase needed medical supplies for the hospital. The Filipino community here has helped raise funds in the past for relief efforts following earthquakes and previous typhoons.
Vidanes said in addition the association is accepting blankets, bed sheets, towels, toiletries, clothes and canned goods. Drop-off centers are located at Kuya’s Restaurant inside the Assi Farmers Market Mall in Duluth and the New Manila Mart in Norcross.
Members of the Filipino community have already held bake sales, lunches and T-shirt sales. A benefit golf tournament for the Philippine Red Cross is set for Nov. 30 at Heritage Golf Links in Tucker. The tournament’s organizer lost relatives in the storm, as have others in the Atlanta community.
“On a larger scale, there are plans of having concerts in the coming months as well,” said Vidanes. “We are all working together as one solid Filipino community to help rebuild the lost city and lift up the hearts and morale of the victims and to renew their faith and trust in our Lord, Jesus.”