By Robin Gomes
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has requested bishops across the country to consider taking up a voluntary special collection for the humanitarian, long-term recovery, and Church needs arising from the increasing number of natural disasters in the country.
“The traditional storm season has only just begun and already we have witnessed the devastating impact of Hurricane Laura and the California wildfires,” USCCB President, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, wrote in a letter to his fellow bishops on Thursday.
Closeness with victims
“Thousands of homes, businesses, and churches," he noted, "have been severely damaged or destroyed, and the impacts .will be long-lasting.” "We offer our prayers to families who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses."
Hurricane Laura, the tenth-strongest U.S. hurricane by windspeed on record, made landfall on August 27 on Cameron, Louisiana state. It killed at least 29 people and caused damages estimated at $8.7 billion in Louisiana and Texas.
Since mid-August, California has battled more than 875 wildfires, which have scorched nearly 1.5 million acres and destroyed more than 2,800 structures. Some 40,000 people have not been able to go back to their homes.
Bishops' Emergency Disaster Fund
Archbishop Gomez said that funds collected will become part of the Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund and will be used to support the efforts of Catholic Charities USA and/or Catholic Relief Services, in response to Hurricane Laura and any other disasters that occur, and will be distributed where they are most needed.
However, if those needs become unnecessary, impractical or impossible to fill, the USCCB may use contributions for other emergency disaster relief where it is most needed as determined by the USCCB's Committee on National Collections' emergency response protocol.
Part of the fund will be utilized for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church.
Archbishop Gomez also acknowledged the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on parish and diocesan activities and its challenging impact on fundraising, but he expressed hope in the generosity of the faithful and their care for those in need.
Archbishop P. Etienne of Seatle, chairman of USCCB’s Committee on National Collections, has been in touch with several bishops to learn about their situations and to offer the bishops’ prayers and desire to be of assistance in this time of need.