Tier tsunami-relief effort is 'amazing'

By Mike Latona/Catholic Courier    |    02.11.2005
Category: Local News


Father Walter Wainwright knew he had caring parishioners at St. Anthony/St. Patrick in Elmira, loyal to any plea for financial assistance. Even so, the cluster's pastor was amazed by the effort to aid victims of the tsunami that devastated a large chunk of Southeast Asia in late December.

As of Jan. 31, St. Anthony/St. Patrick had contributed more than $30,000 -- including $27,000 on the collection's first weekend, Jan. 8-9. Father Wainwright said parishioners were perhaps influenced by his suggestion for them to pause upon getting home from Mass, gaze at their house, and consider that most of the tsunami survivors no longer have homes.

"It is amazing. You can tell a lot of people really did sacrifice," Father Wainwright remarked. "I had hoped it would reflect a truly sacrificial gift, but I was really stunned at the great amount of money that was given."

Another significant amount for tsunami relief was collected by Church of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads, which raised $19,210 in January. That total was likely to rise to more than $20,000 with the help of classroom collections at St. Mary Our Mother School during Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 30-Feb. 5.

Despite this impressive total, Rosemary Bloise, pastoral associate at St. Mary Our Mother, said she was "not really" all that surprised. "Our people are so generous in every way, whatever the need is," she said.

St. Anthony/St. Patrick and St. Mary Our Mother were part of a sweeping effort by parishes throughout the Southern Tier to raise tsunami-related monies. This has been achieved through special collections and fundraising events; donations to parish offices; and/or bulletin notices directing people toward charitable agencies. The most frequently cited beneficiaries are Catholic Relief Services, where all funds from St. Anthony/St. Patrick and St. Mary Our Mother are being sent; and the American Red Cross.

Among the parish initiatives are tithing from St. Catherine of Siena in Ithaca and Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick's in Tioga County. In two cases, relief efforts have involved personal ties with extern priests. St. Mary's, Bath, and St. Gabriel's, Hammondsport, are putting funds toward the Diocese of Trincomalle-Batticaloa, in eastern Sri Lanka -- the home diocese of Father Pius Pathmarajah, sacramental minister of St. Mary's and St. Gabriel's. Meanwhile, Holy Family Parish has earmarked funds for the Diocese of Colombo, the Sri Lankan home of Father Quintus Fernando, who assisted from 1999-2003 in Holy Family churches (St. Joseph's, Wayland; St. Pius V, Cohocton; Sacred Heart, Perkinsville, and St. Mary's, Dansville).

Some parish youth groups have designated all or part of their annual "Souper Bowl of Caring" -- an annual fundraiser for the needy built around Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6 -- toward tsunami relief. These have included Ithaca's St. Catherine of Siena; All Saints, Lansing; and Our Lady of Lourdes, Elmira; as well as Schuyler Catholic Community, which is donating Souper Bowl cash to supplement a parish-wide tsunami collection.

Additional efforts by young people have come from the youth group at Ss. Peter and Paul, Elmira, which held a parish collection; religious-education students of St. Mary Southside, Elmira, who are conducting a bottle-and-can drive and bake sale on Feb. 13; and the youth group at Immaculate Conception, Ithaca, which recently concluded a bottle-and-can drive. Also on a youth-related note, students at Elmira Notre Dame High School are doing their part for tsunami relief via a recent bowl-a-thon by freshmen and sophomores, as well as homeroom donations by juniors and seniors.

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