SCRANTON – As residents of Florida begin the process of rebuilding their homes and livelihoods after devastation from Hurricane Ian, they will be getting assistance from the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton.
The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has asked all parishes in the diocese to take up a special collection to donate to the victims of recent hurricanes Fiona and Ian. Many will hold that special collection on the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16, 2022.
“In view of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona in the southeast United States starting in Florida, but also Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, many lives have been lost along with severe damage and destruction to properties,” Bishop Bambera wrote in a letter to priests of the diocese asking them to organize a special collection.
Hurricane Fiona brought winds up to 85 mph and more than 20 inches of rain to Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, knocking out water and power on the island.
Over 1,000 people were rescued as the storm flooded streets, caused mudslides and destroyed infrastructure.
On Sept. 23, five days before Fiona dissipated, Hurricane Ian formed, first striking Cuba, and then making landfall in the Ft. Myers, Florida area on Sept. 28, as a Category 4 storm. When Ian plowed into southwest Florida, the top gust recorded by a National Weather Service station was 155 mph at the Punta Gorda airport north of Fort Myers.
Though Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm, it regained strength and regrouped as a hurricane before heading toward South Carolina.
The funds collected in the Diocese of Scranton’s special collection will become part of the USCCB Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund. The money will support the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church as well as the efforts of Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services, the official relief agencies of the U.S. Catholic Church.
Both Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services are already on the ground, assisting local agencies in providing humanitarian relief, supplying food, water and sanitation assistance. Repair and rebuilding of homes will take place as soon as possible.
As he concluded his letter, Bishop Bambera stated, “I thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response to those in need.”
SCRANTON — Catholics throughout the Diocese of Scranton will unite with faith communities around the nation on Saturday, Oct. 15, to lend their prayerful pleas to the chorus of intercessions of supplication and reparation as part of this year’s “America Needs Fatima” Rosary Crusade.
Each year since 1985, when the “America Needs Fatima” campaign was founded, faithful gather at noontime on a Saturday in October to send their Rosary prayers and petitions heavenward, seeking the Blessed Mother’s intercession on behalf of the United States.
The unified, simultaneous prayer effort coincides with October’s designation by the Catholic Church as the Month of the Holy Rosary — with the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrated on Oct. 7 — and Respect Life Month.
Prayerful recitation of the Rosary as a visible sign of the power of prayer in public arenas pays homage to the Blessed Mother’s final apparition to the shepherd children of Fatima in Portugal on Oct. 13, 1917, culminating her messages of the need to offer the Holy Rosary as an essential tool for world peace and spiritual conversion.
The “America Needs Fatima” Rosary rallies include reparatory prayers for the country, particularly regarding the evil of abortion and offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Joining tens of thousands of similar “public square” prayer gatherings across America, the following outdoor Rosary events will be held during the coming days in the Scranton Diocese:
Harveys Lake (Thursday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m.) — Our Lady of Victory Church. All will receive a blessed rose during this final Fatima devotion of the year.
Mountain Top (Saturday, noon) — Weis Parking Lot, 237 South Mountain Boulevard, Mountain Top. For information, call Marie (570) 574-0849.
Scranton (Sunday, 1 p.m.) — Prayer Garden on the grounds of Saint Lucy Church, West Scranton.
Laflin (Sunday, 6 p.m.) — Grotto of the Blessed Mother on the grounds of the Oblates of Saint Joseph Chapel, Route 315, Laflin., followed by the celebration of Mass in the Oblates Chapel.
Wilkes-Barre (Sunday, 7 p.m.) — Our Lady of Fatima Blessed Grotto, North Street, Wilkes-Barre (near King’s College). Area parking available.
Honesdale (Saturday, Oct. 22, noon) — Honesdale Central Park at Church and 9th streets. Sponsored by Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Honesdale.
Towanda (Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. before the 4 p.m. Mass) – Rosary procession and dinner. Rosary will be said at 3:30 p.m. before that 4 p.m. Mass at Saints Peter & Paul Parish.
PITTSTON –– Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish will host its 65th Annual Novena to Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases and things despaired of, at Saint Mary, Help of Christians Church, 535 North Main St., Pittston, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 19, and concluding on the Feast of Saint Jude, Friday, Oct. 28.
Mass, homily, Novena prayers and veneration of the relic of Saint Jude will be held Monday through Friday at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday devotions are offered at noon and 4 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Recitation of the Rosary and Confessions precede all Novena devotions, except on Sunday.
Scheduled Novena homilists are as follows:
Wednesday, Oct. 19, noon and 7 p.m., Saint Joseph Oblate Father Paul McDonnell, Sacramental Minister for Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish
Thursday, Oct. 20, noon and 7 p.m., Father Thomas Petro
Friday, Oct. 21, noon and 7 p.m., Father Joseph Verespy
Saturday, Oct. 22, noon and 4 p.m., Father Seth Wasnock
Sunday, Oct. 23, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., Father Phillip Sladicka
Monday, Oct. 24, noon, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, and 7 p.m., Father McDonnell
Tuesday, Oct. 25, noon, Father James Alco, and 7 p.m., Father McDonnell
Wednesday, Oct. 26, noon and 7 p.m., Father Gerald Shantillo, V.G.
Thursday, Oct. 27, noon and 7 p.m., Monsignor Dale Rupert
On the Feast of Saint Jude, Friday, Oct. 28, Father Richard Polmounter will celebrate the noon liturgy, and Father Paul McDonnell will celebrate the Novena’s closing Mass at 7 p.m.
For more information, contact the parish office at (570) 654-0263.
ASHLEY — In response to the United States Catholic Bishops’ call for a National Eucharistic Revival, Saint Leo Parish will host a “Eucharistic Miracle Exhibition” in its parish hall, 33 Manhattan St., Ashley, on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 6, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Presented to bolster the U.S. bishops’ effort to enkindle belief and a living relationship with Jesus — truly present in the Blessed Sacrament — the exhibit will feature some of the principal Eucharistic miracles authenticated throughout the ages around the world that have been recognized by the Catholic Church.
The event is open to the public free of charge.
SCRANTON — As certain as falling leaves, pumpkin spice or any other rite of autumn, Friends of the Poor of Scranton announces the 46th Annual Thanksgiving Community Program is right on schedule to serve those in need during the upcoming holiday.
The program’s three-pronged service events — Thanksgiving Dinner for Adults & Elderly, Family to Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program and Interfaith Prayer Service — are poised once again to minister to anyone in the community seeking assistance at Thanksgiving, according to Meghan Loftus, Friends of the Poor president and CEO.
The Thanksgiving Dinner will be served take-out style on Tuesday, Nov. 22, outside the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 North Washington Ave., Scranton, from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“Anyone in need of a cooked Thanksgiving meal can drive-by or walk-up for a meal,” Loftus said. “We will have the 400 and 500 blocks of North Washington Avenue and Vine Street closed for the event.”
Noting that 3,500 holiday meals will continue to be distributed while they last, Loftus requested that anyone planning to attend arrive no earlier than 2 p.m.
“We will also provide meals to those adults and elderly who live in low-income high rises through our continued partnership with the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging and the Junior League of Scranton,” she added.
The Family to Family Thanksgiving Food Basket Program, under the direction of the Robeson family, takes over the Scranton Cultural Center the next morning on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Beginning at 9 a.m. outside the center, families will be provided with all the grocery items needed to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal in the comfort of their homes.
“We will be there until 5 p.m. or until our supplies run out,” Linda Robeson said. “We are thrilled to be back at the Scranton Cultural Center, as we had been for so many years prior, even if we cannot hold the distribution indoors yet.”
According to Robeson, volunteers will be plentiful to help load meals into drive-up vehicles or provide Thanksgiving baskets to those walking through.
Pre-registration is not required for the event. Those picking up are asked to simply provide their zip code and the number of family members in their household.
“Based on the number of requests for assistance we are seeing at our daily programming, we expect to serve more individuals and families than ever before at each Thanksgiving event,” Loftus stated. “We are doing our best to prepare for this increase. However, supply chain issues and inflation are impacting us just as strongly as they are the rest of the country.”
Loftus indicated that the total Thanksgiving food bill for this year’s programs exceeds $200,000.
“We humbly ask for your continued support as we work to continue this longstanding, valued and desperately needed Scranton tradition,” she said. “Any amount helps as we come together as a community to fill the gap.”
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs arm of the Catholic Bishops across the Commonwealth. The Conference neither supports nor opposes any candidate or political party. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference aims to educate and inform Catholics about issues that are addressed in Catholic social teaching and about issues that impact the Church and our practice of the faith.
As Catholics, we are called upon to form our consciences for faithful citizenship for the good of all. More information on conscience formation is on website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
This voter guide was developed in order to help voters start to discern how to respond to elections this November. Our bishops teach us to “hear, receive, and act upon the Church’s teaching in the lifelong task of forming his or her own conscience.” Foremost amongst those teachings are the four basic principles of Catholic social doctrine: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 160). With this foundation, Catholics are better able to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates’ promises and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better world.
This voter guide is a platform from which we can learn about the major party candidates for our statewide races for Pennsylvania governor and U.S. senator. Voters should reflect and pray over their choices, considering all issues that affect human life and human dignity. Candidates and topics are listed in alphabetical order.
The topic areas listed are a sampling for those on which candidates have taken a written position. Those positions are taken verbatim from their official campaign websites. What is shown is the entirety of the candidate’s explanation of each topic. We neither trimmed down any of the entries nor did we make any corrections to grammar, spelling or punctuation. We encourage everyone to visit those sites for more information and to discern other areas that candidates have or have not addressed in their official platforms. Likewise, we encourage Catholics to seek additional voter resources that are authorized by their own bishops.
Finally, we must remember that, despite the differing political beliefs that Catholics may hold, we are first and foremost followers of Christ, committed to offering everyone the love, mercy and compassion of Jesus.
WILKES-BARRE – As a new academic year begins for the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System, educators and administrators are focusing on student growth.
“Every single day counts,” Kristen Donohue, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Education/Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said during the Diocesan Teachers’ Institute on Sept. 26, 2022, at Holy Redeemer High School.
Each year, hundreds of Catholic school educators and administrators from all 19 Diocesan schools gather for the Diocesan Teachers’ Institute. The day-long Institute began with the celebration of Mass led by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and continued with teachers learning from one another at breakout sessions.
Donohue provided the day’s keynote presentation where she outlined growth goals that include attention to Catholic Identity, STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics), Differentiated Instruction and Social Emotional Learning.
“Every student who comes to us, every single one, can grow,” Donohue explained. “We have an incredible opportunity to promote growth for each of our students. We are their biggest cheerleaders.”
During her presentation, Donohue explained how students learn in different ways and at different paces. She also challenged each educator in the audience to have a “growth mindset” instead of a “fixed mindset.”
In a “growth mindset,” a student’s natural abilities are enhanced by a nurturing environment. Under a “fixed mindset,” it is believed that a student is born with only a certain amount of intelligence and/or talent that is unchangeable.
“It takes intentional planning and making sure that that you’re thinking about what is really going to challenge a student in order to give them that rigorous education that they need,” she explained.
Following the keynote presentation, the educators were able to choose between breakout sessions that focused on one of the identified growth goals.
Father Ryan Glenn, Assistant Pastor of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, presented one of the breakout sessions focused on Catholic Identity.
Father Ryan, who has served as Chaplain of Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School for the last three years, emphasized the teachings of Popes Benedict and Francis who said we need to be people who pray, people who serve and people who proclaim Jesus.
“That happens in our classrooms, that happens when we gather for Mass, it happens on our sports teams but it is always going back to those three fundamentals,” he explained.
He also said it is vital for parishes and schools to see each other as partners in mission.
“We need our students to come to our parish and to join us for the Sunday Eucharist and to be a part of the community and likewise, we need our parishioners to support our schools, whether it is financially or whether it is in support of the values of Catholic education. I think there is just a great harmony between our parishes and our schools and hopefully that keeps going,” Father Ryan said.
Geralyn Durham, a first grade teacher at Notre Dame Elementary School focused on the Catholic School System’s STREAM initiative.
Her interactive presentation focused on how to use “3D Doodle” pens to enhance lessons.
“It’s almost like a glue gun that heats up, but doesn’t get too hot to touch and we have plastic filament sticks that go in the end and melt and they come out as a liquid and dry immediately,” Durham said.
Describing the pens as an early version of a 3D printer, she explained how she uses the pens in many different lessons, including explaining the life cycle of a butterfly.
“They love it. It takes learning to the next level. I can stand up there and talk about the life cycles of a butterfly but when they’re actually doing it, hands on, in front of them, tracing and welding the parts together, they love it,” the educator emphasized.
During her earlier remarks, Donohue emphasized the outstanding projects Catholic school educators have developed as they have embraced the STREAM initiative.
“The opportunities that you provide with STREAM are really allowing our students to think critically, use their talents differently and be creative,” Donohue said.
NANTICOKE — Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant of a Pontifical Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial for Father Joseph M. Horanzy on Oct. 7 at Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish in Nanticoke.
Father Horanzy, pastor emeritus of the former Saint Stanislaus Parish, Wilkes-Barre, died Oct. 2 at Saint Mary’s Villa Nursing Home in Elmhurst at the age of 90.
Born in Nanticoke on March 6, 1932, son of the late Michael and Stella Saulinski Horanzy, Father Horanzy graduated from Nanticoke High School before enrolling at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre.
A graduate of Saint Mary’s Seminary at Orchard Lake, Mich., he completed his preparatory studies and priestly formation at Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, and was ordained to the priesthood for the Scranton Diocese on Feb. 21, 1959, at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, N.Y., by Most Rev. Joseph A. Burke, late Bishop of Buffalo.
Following ordination, Father Horanzy was assigned as parochial vicar at Saint Leo Parish, Ashley, where he served until being appointed parochial vicar at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Peckville, in February 1966. He subsequently was named parochial vicar at Saints Peter and Paul in Plains in January 1975.
A year later, Father Horanzy received his first pastoral appointment, at the parishes of Saint Francis, Friendsville, and Saint Thomas, Little Meadows, serving until 1977, when he was assigned the pastorate of Saints Peter and Paul, Avoca.
In 1982, Father was named pastor of Saint Casimir in Dunmore, where he ministered to the parish faithful for ten years. He received his final parochial assignment in 1992, as pastor of Saint Stanislaus Parish, Wilkes-Barre, serving for 15 years until his appointment as pastor emeritus and retirement from active ministry on July 10, 2007.
“Anyone who knew Father Horanzy knows that he was never shy about telling you what he thought,” Father Bob Simon began to open the homily at the funeral Mass for his longtime dear friend, after which he indicated that a few months earlier, Father Horanzy reminded the younger priest that he would soon preach at his funeral.
“He suggested I should speak just a few simple words from my heart. He then proceeded to tell me what I should say,” Father Simon continued. “Just tell everyone that I was ready to go home to the Lord. Tell everyone that I have always, throughout my life, placed myself in God’s hands. Tell everyone I was at peace with dying and have trust in God’s goodness and mercy.”
The homilist shared that Father Horanzy’s “sole goal to be a good priest” had been achieved. “I thanked him for the gift of his priesthood and assured him that I and so many others found in him a good, faithful and holy priest.”
Father Simon then told of how two years after his own ordination, Father Horanzy was assigned to his home parish of Saint Stanislaus in Wilkes-Barre, admitting that as his family soon came to know and love the seasoned pastor, he “got a little jealous.”
“When I asked my Mom when I should come to bless our home, she told me, ‘Father Horanzy will take care of it.’”
“Father Joe found simple ways to make connections and develop relationships with parishioners,” Father Simon noted. “His infectious laughter, his love of tradition, his reverence at Mass and his love of life led the people of (Saint Catherine of Siena Parish) Moscow, where he would gladly cover for me after his retirement, to call him ‘the priest we love.’”
Stating that Father Horanzy had the “heart of a pastor of souls,” the homilist went on to say, “He has always been the kind of priest Pope Francis calls us to be — a priest who gets his shoes dirty and is comfortable being close to his sheep.”
“This beautiful priestly heart beat for more than 63 years with love and zeal. May Christ, gentle and humble of heart, welcome him to the Father’s house and grant rest to his soul,” Father Simon concluded.
Surviving are two nephews, David Horanzy and his children; Eugene Horanzy and wife, Lisa; a niece, Kathy Ann Wilkes and husband, Rick; cousins; and dear friends, Gerald and Margaret McGinnis.
He was also preceded in death two brothers, Michael and Eugene Sr.; and sister-in-law, Regina.
Interment was held at Saint Stanislaus Cemetery in Nanticoke.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Second Vatican Council was the universal Catholic Church’s response to God’s love and to Jesus’ command to feed his sheep, Pope Francis said, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the council’s opening.
The council reminded the church of what is “essential,” the pope said: “a church madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom he loves,” one that “is rich in Jesus and poor in assets,” a church that “is free and freeing.”
Pope Francis presided over the Mass Oct. 11 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the council sessions were held in four sessions from 1962 to 1964. The date is also the feast of St. John XXIII, who convoked and opened the council; the glass urn containing his body was moved to the center of the basilica for the liturgy.
The Gospel reading at the Mass recounted Jesus asking St. Peter, “Do you love me?” and telling him, “Feed my sheep.”
In his homily, the pope said the council was the church’s response to that question and marked a renewed effort to feed God’s sheep, not just those who are Catholic, but all people.
The debates that followed the council and continue today are a distraction from the church’s mission, Pope Francis said.
“We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back the time that providence has granted us,” he said.
Catholics must be careful, he said, because “both the ‘progressivism’ that lines up behind the world and the ‘traditionalism’ that longs for a bygone world are not evidence of love, but of infidelity,” forms of “selfishness that puts our own tastes and plans above the love that pleases God, the simple, humble and faithful love that Jesus asked of Peter.”
“A church in love with Jesus has no time for quarrels, gossip and disputes,” the pope said. “May God free us from being critical and intolerant, harsh and angry. This is not a matter of style but of love.”
Jesus, the good shepherd, “wants his flock to be united under the guidance of the pastors he has given them,” the pope said, but the devil loves to sow division; “let us not give in to his enticements or to the temptation of polarization.”
“How often, in the wake of the council, did Christians prefer to choose sides in the church, not realizing that they were breaking their mother’s heart,” the heart of their mother, the church, Pope Francis said.
How often, he asked, did they prefer “to be on the ‘right’ or ‘left,’ rather than with Jesus? To present themselves as ‘guardians of the truth’ or ‘pioneers of innovation’ rather than seeing themselves as humble and grateful children of Holy Mother Church?”
The council, he said, taught the church to see the world around it and to share God’s love with all, knowing that “if it is fitting to show a particular concern, it should be for those whom God loves most: the poor and the outcast.”
With Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant representatives present, as they were at the council, Pope Francis also prayed that “the yearning for unity” would grow within each Christ, “the desire to commit ourselves to full communion among all those who believe in Christ.”
Thanking God for the gift of the council, the pope asked the Lord to “save us from the forms of polarization that are the devil’s handiwork. And we, your church, with Peter and like Peter, now say to you: ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that we love you.'”
Pope Francis, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1969, is the first pope ordained after the Second Vatican Council. His immediate predecessor, now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, attended all four sessions of the council as a theological adviser — a “peritus” — to the archbishop of Cologne, Germany. St. John Paul II participated in all four sessions as a full member of the body, first as auxiliary bishop of Krakow, Poland, and then as archbishop of the city.
Among the more than 400 priests concelebrating the Mass, the Vatican liturgical office said there were five who were present at Vatican II.
According to the websites GCatholic.org and catholic-hierarchy.org, there are six bishops alive in the world today who participated in at least one session of the Second Vatican Council. Among them is Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, an 89-year-old former Vatican official who was ordained a bishop in 1965 and attended the council’s last session; he was one of the concelebrants at the anniversary Mass.
Before the Mass, passages were read from the speech St. John XXIII gave at the council’s opening. Known by its opening words in Latin, “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia,” the speech begins: “Mother Church rejoices.”
Selections from the council’s four constitutions also were read. Pope Francis has asked Catholics to prepare for the Holy Year 2025 by re-reading and studying the documents: Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”); Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”); Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (“Dei Verbum”); and Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”).
MIAMI (CNS) – With the full picture of the widespread fallout and damages Hurricane Ian brought to southwest Florida still coming into focus, the Miami region looks on with a collective sigh of relief: What if that had hit here?
From Naples, just two hours west of Fort Lauderdale across Interstate 75, up throughout the greater Fort Myers, Port Charlotte and Sarasota region, many residents and parish communities are facing a challenging close to 2022 and with the holiday season just around the corner.
The post-Hurricane Ian landscape is expected to trigger housing, employment and other cost-of-living complications for the entire state and in particular on the Gulf Coast.
“We saw wind damage and heard stories of those who stayed for the hurricane and the trauma they went through but some areas we have been to saw significant flood damages, the waters had subsided but the needs are going to be there,” said Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami.
He served as CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Venice before moving to Miami.
Routsis-Arroyo’s remarks followed a second tour he took of the area following Hurricane Ian. He connected with his Catholic Charities counterparts in the Venice Diocese and offered moral support during stops at churches and drive-up emergency distribution sites Fort Myers, Arcadia, Bonita Springs and more.
“When you have a house with 4 to 6 feet of water coming in, I don’t know if this means your house is not going to be habitable or if you get some mediation done, but you will go through some pain and suffering while all of that goes on,” he said Oct 5.
“And then there is the dealing with insurance companies, if you have insurance, and those who don’t may be dealing with loss of employment or work, inflation, higher costs. It’s all going to lead to making this a humanitarian crisis,” he added.
Lee County, which also includes Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island and Sanibel, suffered most of the 119 fatalities related to Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on the state’s west coast as a powerful Category 4 storm Sept. 28.
Eddie Gloria, Venice Catholic Charities CEO, has said the easiest way to understand where the damage is greatest is in terms of the central corridor of Fort Myers and Lee County along with dispersed pockets of rural communities throughout the greater 10-county diocese. These areas suffered flooding as river waters spilled over into neighboring housing.
Hurricane Ian brought heavy rains and gusts of 140 mph, but “it took a few hours to cross the town,” said Father Luis Pacheco, the Venezuela-born administrator of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Arcadia in DeSoto County.
The parish of 600 families is in a farming and largely Spanish-speaking community inland from Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.
“One week after the hurricane we still had people who haven’t been able to leave their homes because they were totally flooded” and because roads in and out of town were impassable, he said.
Also, as the flood waters receded, the community was still waiting for civil engineers to verify that all the local bridges were safe.
The National Guard troops working in the area helped deliver food and water to trapped parishioners. They were “heaven sent,” Father Pacheco said. “They have done an amazing job and are the true heroes.” He also praised first responders.
Local Catholic Charities staff have helped facilitate a morning drive-through operation for food and water at the church.
The church campus lost its offices and facilities for religious education classes, and the church roof has developed several leaks. To check on parishioners and their welfare, the church used its ministries’ phone trees to contact them.
“We more or less know about everyone through that,” Father Pacheco said, adding that the locals are grateful — and sympathetic to the areas with greater suffering, such as Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Boca Grande.
“I learned that we are not to take life for granted, to be centered and to know that the most important thing in life is our relationship with God and each other and everything else is just temporal and not as important as perhaps it once was,” the priest added.
Arcadia residents living in trailers may be facing uncertain fate as some of the trailer housing was toppled, flooded or severely damaged in other ways.
“What I am planning to do is give distribution of food packages during the weekdays and then on the weekends hot food; the people bring it in coolers already cooked and from other parishes, he said, adding: “Life has to go back to normal ultimately, God willing.”
Clara Alvarez, program manager for education programs for Catholic Charities in Arcadia, said Hurricane Ian temporarily cut her off from accessing her brother who lives on the other side of the nearby Peace River.
Franz Sylvestre, who also is with Catholic Charities, said the local Haitian American community is suffering the loss of work since the hurricane and looking to the church for short-term food assistance.
South of Fort Myers in the suburban area of Bonita Springs and Naples, local newspapers reported that badly damaged trailer home communities were being closed indefinitely and residents were forced to vacate on short notice — and this in a region where rents can run an average of $3,000 a month.
In Bonita Springs, the Catholic Charities staff had a full-time disaster recovery and drive-up distribution operation in full swing at their afterschool program, food pantry and human trafficking/victim assistance office.
Among those being served are residents of three migrant camps in the Imperial River area, said Paulina Matias, director of the Catholic Charities offices in Bonita Springs.
One migrant camp remained evacuated because of fears the nearby river would rise and flood the housing.
Routsis-Arroyo, Miami’s Catholic Charities CEO, said it will be a long path back for southwest Florida. but “there is a sense of resilience in the people here.”
“They need help and yet they are not giving up their life or homes for Florida: This is home for them and they will just need help to pull it back together,” he said.