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In devastated Puerto Rico, a parish is a light amid the darkness


Ricardo Arduengo | AFP

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 10/07/17

A beautiful account of one community of faith, keeping the faith, via The Washington Post: 

Carmen Ortiz and her family live nearest to Our Lady of Monte Carmelo, and they worked for a week to dig it out from the mud and clean the pews. On the first Mass after the Sept. 20 storm, the church opened and the Ortiz family — the four of them — were the only ones who could make it. Ortiz sought solace in Father Rafael Rodriguez, sharing her worries, her fears and what her family experienced trapped inside their home as Maria lashed outside. The church “is the only light I’ve seen in the midst of all this darkness,” she said. At that first Mass, they prayed that more people would come. More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria tore a devastating path through Puerto Rico, communities such as this one are still isolated and struggling to meet basic human needs. They are frustrated at what they see as the lack of local and federal attention to their plight. In Caonillas, the effort to re-energize the church has given people a special kind of faith — a special kind of mission — while the world around them remains unsettled and unnerving…. …As shock turned to despair, parishioners focused on Our Lady of Monte Carmelo. Roads began to clear and the church started to return to some semblance of its former self. Ortiz’s extended family arrived for a midweek mass, increasing the number of worshipers from four to eight. Still, they believed, more would come. The parish posted a yellow sign on the front gate: “There will be Mass on Sunday at 11 a.m.” That Sunday was Oct. 1 — 11 days after Maria made landfall — and the parishioners began setting up. Plastic chairs were placed at the rear of the church instead of at the altar, away from where the mud had invaded the room. The sound of a tambourine and guitar strokes emanated from the darkened interior, where Ortiz and her daughter were practicing choruses for the service. A painting of La Virgen de la Divina Providencia, the patroness of Puerto Rico, watched over the elements for the Eucharist with the island’s flag — red and white stripes with a blue triangle emblazoned with a white star — draped behind her.

Read it all. Pray for Puerto Rico!

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