A good friend of mine, The Most Rev. Patrick C. Pinder, the Archbishop of Nassau and all the Bahamas, celebrated Mass last Sunday at his cathedral in Nassau for the evacuated families and Catholic school staff members, a week after hurricane Dorian slammed into the islands. After it, he invited the people to come up for a special blessing, and spend time in prayer, commending to God the many who perished in the storm. He said that in the aftermath of the storm it’s important to care for one another and to “rely on the grace of the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom, the peace of mind and the strength to make it through this most difficult time in the history of our nation. We have never had a disaster of this scale in our country,” he exclaimed.
He described the hurricane as a “horrific experience” where many lost their homes, and some lost all their possessions. “It is sheer terror and confusion for those who had their homes compromised in the middle of the storm and had to relocate, and all the challenges that poses, and then be taken to places where there were large crowds of people,” he said. He believes the official death toll “is bound to increase.” Search and rescue operations continue from the storm which affected some of the islands. Their government estimates that Dorian affected 70,000, and 60% of these may have lost their homes. Many are still unaccounted for at this time.
In a text message to me, he said, “I am fine…severely stressed, but fine.” Two schools and one parish on Abaco Island were destroyed: St. Francis de Sales Catholic School in Treasure Cay and Every Child Counts School for Special Students in Marsh Harbor, along with the Catholic church and rectory in Treasure Cay, which the archbishop described as now “a pile of rubble” following the storm. “I am sure that we lost just about everything in the two churches in Abaco. One of our churches is among the few remaining structures in Marsh Harbor, and it has become a shelter for the homeless.”
On Grand Bahama Island, near Freeport, the St. Mary Star of the Sea retreat center and church was damaged. A group of storm evacuees have taken up temporary residence at St. Francis de Sales parish. The archbishop noted that all of the archdiocesan priests are accounted for following the hurricane. He’s received messages of support and offers of assistance from all over. What worries him now is “making sure everyone has the basic needs and that there’s a good assessment of the needs and priorities.”
He said the plan is to accommodate all the displaced Catholic students at Catholic schools on New Providence Island, and there’s also been discussion about accommodating some of the displaced students from public schools. “We are still working through this. We have only begun to understand the full depths of this catastrophe: This is a disaster on a scale that we have never seen before,” he said.
Plans are also underway to offer post-traumatic stress counseling for Dorian survivors. Some 1,100 evacuated Bahamian residents arrived Sept. 7th at the Port of Palm Beach, courtesy of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration, which also was shuttling nearly 300 first responders and volunteers to the Bahamas earlier in the week.
“We are going to need a lot of help to get through this,” the Archbishop texted. It’s going to take a lot of time, effort and money to rebuild the island nation and the Church’s institutions there. Your most generous contribution this weekend will greatly help the Archbishop assist many people (Catholic and non-Catholic) thru the Catholic Charities outreach program. It will also assist the Catholic Church to rebuild the lost schools and churches. You may make your checks out either to “St. Vincent Ferrer Church” (with your memo for Bahamian Relief), OR to “The Archdiocese of Nassau.” Either way, it will be used immediately and be most appreciated.
Last weekend, we introduced the new transitional Deacon assigned to assist us on weekends during the coming year. He is DEACON ADAM MARCHESE, from the Diocese of Orlando, where he hopes to be ordained a priest for service there next May. In the meantime, he is finishing up his last year of theological studies at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach. We extend a heartfelt welcome to our parish and hope that he finds this assignment to be most beneficial in his preparation to serve the People of God as a priest of Jesus Christ.