Donor Highlight – Sally Gomez-Jung
Sally Gomez-Jung is a former professor of Pastoral Education at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. She is also an Oblate Associate, a lay-collaborator who through prayer and outreach shares in the ministries of the Missionary Oblates. Sally writes here about a recent visit she made to Puerto Rico to check on family members and the Oblates who are still experiencing many hardships as they recover from Hurricane Maria.
“Blessed be the God of mercy and compassion and who hears the cry of the poor!”
“Mom is doing well but a little disoriented by all that is happening. The nursing home has water but electricity comes and goes and they are depending more and more on the generator which is designed for emergencies. At the nursing home I have spent time folding clothes, peeling potatoes, have become a hairstylist, setting tables, helping in the kitchen, feeding bedridden residents, working in the dispensary sorting medications and assisting mom. I get up at 5:00 a.m. to pray and get ready to go help mom bathe and get ready for Mass. I go visit a few times a day and return at 4:00 p.m. to feed her and get her ready for bed. I thank God for this time with her. It is priceless!”
“I would like to share with you some of the experiences I’ve had and what I have learned.”
“Last Thursday I met with an Oblate priest. We had a great visit. Later that morning, I went with two priests to Utuado, a small town in the middle of the island. It is surrounded by mountains. Twenty-four families were disconnected from the town as the rain washed away the bridge. I was in disbelief to actually see the devastation with my own eyes.”
“We visited the church in the plaza and I was able to meet with members of the parish. The people gathered in church for Mass in solidarity and seeking ways to find hope in their collective situation. They had two lanterns for light and hoped that by the time Mass ended there was still daylight to get home. They looked exhausted and worn out. Standing in lines was the new daily normal. One of the ladies told me that she went to bed at night hoping that it was a nightmare from which she would wake up in the morning. But reality hits when she wakes up and it’s the same routine again. Lines, no water, no electricity and little hope that it will be better soon.”
“On Saturday afternoon I went to La Perla. This is one of the poorest areas in San Juan. I had given the priest a donation for that community and they wanted me to meet and pray with the community. It was a very moving experience. As we entered the community, which is right off the ocean, there was a long line of people waiting for water, ice and food.”
“We made our way to a very modest chapel that was spared by the hurricane. I saw many homes totally destroyed by the storm. There were a few people gathered at the chapel. Mass time had to be scheduled earlier because there is no electricity and the sun goes down earlier. I received a very warm welcome by the people and heard many stories of what they have been through. My presence, I pray, reminded them that there are people in the mainland who not only pray for them, but are supporting them with donations. I spoke to them of your generosity.”
“Please continue to pray for the people of Puerto Rico. The recovery for 3.3 million people will be difficult and lengthy. But in God’s providence we put our trust – and in those who incarnate it! Blessings to all and thank you for your journey with me.”
The Devastation of Hurricane Maria
Father Mariano Martinez, O.M.I. shares insight on the impact of Hurricane Maria on the Oblates in Puerto Rico and how the recovery efforts are continuing today.
“We are relatively well. We’re tired and we cannot sleep. There is looting and delinquency. The foundations of the school and the parish have been damaged. There is much desolation and fear; everything has fallen apart: none of the systems are working at all – health, transportation, electricity, water, etc.”
“Our house has survived. Some doors went flying and the wind and water came in. We were swimming in our beds. But all is fine. The people in general are distressed and crying.
They tell us they have never seen anything like this. The violence is coming from some who are desperate for water and food. The situation is becoming oppressive.”
“The government is doing what it can but the emergencies are bigger than it can handle. There are people without means of communication and dams are breaking, endangering towns that have to be evacuated. Many, many months will pass before things return to a semblance of normalcy. Many young people are migrating and abandoning the country.”
“We ask that everyone continue to accompany them in prayer and in whatever solidarity we can.”