Christmas letter from Philippines

Our Lady of Remedies Church

Malate, Manila, Philippines


Dear Friends,

It is now over a month since Typhoon HAIYAN lashed our shores. Because of the modern means of communication the whole world has seen the extent of the devastation. The number of those who lost their lives is close to 7,000 and up to 2,000 are still missing. Both RTE and BBC have brought to your living rooms the horrific pictures of death and destruction. One reason why this story captured the sympathy of the Irish is due to the numbers of Filipino nurses and care-givers who have found work in Ireland. Another reason is the presence of so many Irish missionaries in the Philippines.

Our Parish, together with other parishes throughout the Philippines, has been helping to provide short-term relief for the survivors. Almost every day we receive clothing and canned goods which we channel through CARITAS, the local Church organization. In the New Year, we shall pool the financial resources that we have received and embark on some long-term projects. Last year, a fellow Columban (with partner groups) succeeded in building a whole village, now with Electricity, Water and Roads for some victims of the Typhoon that lashed 2 large cities in the Southern Philippines in December 2011.

In the meantime, both International and National agencies are joined in the effort to purchase and distribute seeds, fertilizers, farm implements, coconut seedlings, small motorized fishing boats and chain saws to transform fallen trees into building materials.

One town has chosen to relocate. The residents believe that their present location means that they will always be vulnerable, that things will get much worse as the oceans get warmer. Many have moved to other provinces; others decided that they have no option but to stay where they are and start again, even with the little that they have. Foreign Media, together with those who have come by ship and plane to unload their much needed cargos, have remarked that they never encountered survivors who blamed God for the disaster. Their resilience and obvious faith have left an indelible impression on all.

As I write, I have heard the news that Francis, the Bishop of Rome (and our Pope), has been selected as MAN OF THE YEAR. What a wonderful gift and challenge, not only to Christians, but to all who want to build a better world! Simple, humble admits he does not have all the answers to the myriad questions and problems that are facing humankind. He shows he has a compassionate heart and invites us all to be compassionate and merciful.

I have plans to take my vacation in Ireland next August. In the meantime, please keep up your prayers for me and my work, which is really God’s Work.

May I wish you and your family all the blessings of Christmas.