A forum of Catholic Thought


Propagation of the Faith

Help Amid Devastation

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article on social media

Submit a Letter to the Editor
Maureen Crowley

Traveling by road in the missions can be challenging, to say the least. Roads are often not paved, just hard packed dirt. The potholes make ours look like pinpricks! They force drivers to perform a delicate ballet of weaving back and forth on the road to avoid them while staying away from other vehicles doing the same, coming from the opposite direction.
It's a great inspiration for prayer!
While in Malawi recently, I found this to be no different. Near the cities, main roads were under construction and had been for years. Locals said it would be years before they were finished. In the more rural areas, little work is done; the ride can be a bit bone rattling. Because of this, our group from The Pontifical Mission Societies in the USA (TPMS USA) flew from the capital city of Lilongwe south to Blantyre. What turned out to be a twenty-minute flight would have been a six-hour drive.
The Diocese of Zomba was our destination and reason for the trip -- we were there to deliver aid from TPMS USA to the survivors of tropical Cyclone Freddy and to see the devastation wrought by this wicked blast firsthand.
To grasp the magnitude of the storm, one must understand that a cyclone is another name for a hurricane; the geographic location of the storm is what determines which term is used. They are rated on the same scale. Tropical Cyclone Freddy was a category 5, as well as both the longest lasting and highest wind producer of any tropical cyclone on record. The storm hit the coast of Africa twice after weakening and reforming multiple times.
Malawi, and Blantyre in particular, bore the brunt of the second hit. It was truly insult to injury, because at the time, the country was experiencing its worst outbreak of cholera in its history.
Six months' worth of rain fell in six days. Flash floods washed away whole villages -- people, houses, and livestock. The storm hit just before harvest, so crops were a total loss, adding to the existing problem of food insecurity. The entire country experienced a blackout as the nation's hydroelectric plant was damaged by debris.
Then came the landslides.
More people, villages, and infrastructure were lost. The river used as a water supply was diverted and is now unreachable through the boulder-strewn landscape. Debris from bridges mark where children used to cross to attend now-destroyed schools.
The people left in these devastated areas, Catholic or not, know who to turn to now. It's us -- you and me -- the Church. This Lent, pray for Malawi and give to the missions as part of your almsgiving at propfaithboston.org.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article on social media

Recent articles in the Faith & Family section