"Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what “definite service” he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: ... he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation". Pope Benedict XVI, Hyde Park, September 2010
I received an email today from Rosemary Sullivan, the Executive Director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors in the US which has its headquarters in the diocesan seminary in Huntingdon on Long Island. I was supposed to have stayed there in September but had to make do with NHS hospitality instead. I'm copying the email here to encourage you to remember to pray for all those suffering in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Over here in England we rarely get affected by events of such magnitude and it is perhaps hard for us to imagine what it is really like for people on the ground. Also, there is a great resilience to the American spirit. My Facebook friends seem galvanised to help each other and sort things out and we have a lot to learn from that but at the same time there is also another side to tragedy - Rose catches it in the young priest sitting on the beach not knowing what to do. Before long the news stories over here will move on to other things but let's not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters in New York...
Not sure when this will go through – The hot spot Fr. Henning has is very weak so Internet has really been nonexistent for us the last two days.
All continues to be well here at the seminary. Our generator is holding, so we have power, but we no longer have heat so the building is cold at night, hopefully it will be fixed today - but absolutely no complaint we just pile on another blanket. Still no phones. We did get a food delivery yesterday - only non-perishable items, but again no complaint; all things considered we are in good shape.
Things are tough outside the walls of this house of Mary. Long, sometimes violent lines for gas. Gary was on line with my sister yesterday for 2 ½ hours to get gas for the car. People are stealing generators from each other and Thursday night in downtown Huntington (where the restaurants are) there was looting; thankfully the police chief seems to feel he has that under control now.
The seminary has been open for people to take hot showers, charge their phones, get some hot coffee, etc. We have not seen many people but as the days continue without power we are prepared for the numbers to increase. The new estimate is that some places on Long Island may not see power until after November 11th or longer. We were also contacted yesterday by the State Police who are looking to house 100 troopers here at the seminary who are coming in from across the country to help with the relief efforts. Bishop Murphy is also looking to possibly use the seminary as temporary housing for those who have lost their homes. We are ready to welcome and help wherever we can, but decisions on what is happening when, and where, seems to change by the minute. Its frustrating as we want to help and are ready to and yet need to wait. Trusting the Lord is something I am being reminded of everyday in prayer. But honestly it is all keeping my mind off, if only momentarily, the conditions on the South Shore where my home, my friends and neighbors are.
With each sunrise there is hope that things will begin to level out and we can take a breath and begin to move forward. It is just so hard to see the photos and hear from friends who have lost so much.
I have attached two photos. One is the seminary with the damage on the main driveway. We lost trees all over the property but again, no damage to the building. Also, attached is a photo of the beach - Robert Moses, Fire Island - which some of you may remember. The beach is about a 5 minute drive from my home. The lighthouse is still standing, be I am not sure if it was damaged, but as you can see from the photo the beach itself is gone. But it WILL come back.
My focus has been on helping Fr. Rich and reaching out to my recently ordained. The fellows who are only ordained 1, 3, 5 years are finding this very tough. Some of them were still in high school/college for 9/11 so this is the first real test for them. Some are finding it harder than others. I ask them to focus on how their presence, and if nothing else, their willingness to just listen to the people of their parishes/communities will make all the difference. Duffy told me a story today about how the people were banging on the church doors looking for food and there was nothing left to give them. The parish has no power - nothing. But they have been saying masses by candlelight and doing all they can. Sean was just assigned to Breezy Point, which is where the major fires were. 111 homes were lost and what the fire didn’t claim the ocean did.The first floor of the rectory was completely flooded out.He called me, sitting on the beach not even knowing where to start. It was the first time he was allowing himself to take it all in. My heart just broke for him but I refuse to be soft and had to give him some tough “Mama Rose love”– which was in fact what he was looking for.
What can we do? The question that so many from outside the path of Sandy ask and is in fact comforting to hear, but truth is, the best thing you can all do is what you do best – pray. Ask your parishioners to pray, ask the seminarians to pray. Pray for patience, pray for calm, pray that so many can keep their spirits up, pray that in the coming days as the shock of it begins to wear off and the scarring reality sets in for so many people, that they will remember Christ is here among us.