Most of you heard at Mass over the weekend that I have invited all of our parishes to take up a special second collection on Sunday, Sept. 25, to help our sisters and brothers in our Tioga County communities recover from the disastrous flooding they have experienced. In addition, our Catholic Charities organization, with its usual alertness and generosity, has stepped forward to help coordinate the recovery effort.
I know that our prayers go out to all in the Southern Tier — especially to those who have suffered loss or damage to home or possessions, but also to those who so generously and lovingly have come to the aid of friends in need.
In a recent telephone conversation with a woman in Owego, I asked how she was doing. She replied that she and her family had been spared any significant damage but that many people she knows have suffered catastrophic losses. She added that just before our conversation she and other parishioners had been bringing food to their neighbors. In the telling she paused for a moment — to collect herself, I think — and said, "I can’t believe how strong and good these people are. We were bringing them mac and cheese. You’d think that we were bringing them gold. Their strength and spirit of gratitude are overwhelming."
Clearly there is no quick fix possible in a situation like this. It will take months to assess the damage, establish priorities, clean up, repair, rebuild and recover from the emotional trauma that so many have experienced. And even then there will be more to do.
I know that our friends in Tioga County will be heartened by your prayers, concern and participation in next Sunday’s collection. I thank you in advance for your kindness and generosity. I also ask that you stay tuned to the situation. As time goes by we may be putting out calls to parish communities for cleanup work, help with repairs and other kinds of support.
Between my writing and your reading of these words I will have celebrated Sunday Eucharist with the communities of St. Patrick in Owego and at St. Margaret Mary in Apalachin. It will be my privilege to speak to them of your prayers, your concern, your willingness to support them now and in the days ahead.
Peace to all.