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Provincia Americana

 

HURRICANE  SANDY:  WRECKAGE  and  RAINBOWS

 

From the American Province  -  March 2013

 

For almost a week the weather forecasters watched as the tropical storm called “Sandy” grew, picked-up speed and hurried from the Caribbean toward the Atlantic coast of New York. At the same time, the weathermen began to watch a cold winter storm racing in from the west that was also headed for New York. Their prediction soon was ominous: the two storms would meet, energize each other and form one super-storm. Linked to this would be the occurrence of high tide. The power in this storm system would far surpass any other in this area’s meteorological history. Severe damage was to be expected from wind and rain but mainly from coastal water surges and consequent flooding. All coastal areas of New York City, which includes the borough of Staten Island, were ordered to evacuate.

 

The storm arrived during the evening hours of October 29, 2012.  Throughout the night the winds roared and massive tidal waves pounded the coastal shores. A wall of water 12 ft high surged inexorably a mile inland, crashing into homes that were never thought to be in danger. Morning light revealed an extent of devastation that could only be termed “horrific”. The stories of loss were reported everywhere. In some cases entire homes - with occupants -  had been swept out to sea. Evacuated families returned to find their homes gutted of  belongings. Cars could be seen on rooftops and boats on fences. The powerful waters had consumed the waterfront. But in over 30 tragic cases, the most heart-wrenching losses were those of loved ones – young and old -  who had died.

 

But out of the wreckage came rainbows of hope and help. The Baptistine Sisters on Staten Island united with local parishes, especially St. Margaret Mary, Holy Rosary and Blessed Sacrament, as well as community groups, to help the victims meet the needs of daily living. Throughout November and December the Sisters collected and distributed clothing, toiletry, medical and household items. They cooked soups, made sandwiches and served them at the parish centers or went door-to-door feeding the victims and volunteer helpers alike. The Sisters, along with alumni, formed a “word of mouth” connection to help the now homeless find temporary housing. And most importantly, they prayed for and comforted those who mourned, attending many wakes and funerals.

 

Because St. John Villa Academy sits on a small hill, it suffered no direct damage from the ocean waters. But, a great majority of our students live in areas severely affected by Hurricane Sandy. The school administrators identified 34 Villa families who had suffered total or partial loss of home and/or belongings. Many were single Moms with multiple children. While the Faculties and Staffs worked daily to provide “Hurricane Sandy” students with a loving and secure support system, the Administration reached out to alumni, friends and associates to help in concrete ways. The needs were so many; our resources were so limited.

 

And each day the Founder’s unwavering trust in Divine Providence materialized before our eyes. Villa alumni and current families donated a steady stream of Gift Cards to pharmacies and stores that provided clothing and home repair items. Schools and parishes from other states contacted us, held fundraisers, and sent the proceeds for us to distribute. Unknown benefactors made significant donations. One of these donors came through our Providence Rest Nursing Home. Miraculously, even though it sits at the water’s edge, Providence Rest suffered no major damage and was able to give shelter to residents of other nursing homes who were forced to evacuate. The generosity of so many enabled us to give each Villa family an average of $5,000 each to help with tuition payments, house repairs, household and personal needs.

 

As Christmas drew near, it was important to celebrate the true spirit of this holy day. Supported by Villa’s food service vendors, the Sisters and school staffs sponsored a Christmas dinner at Villa for the “Sandy” families. There were gifts for all and tickets to the High School’s traditional Christmas concert that evening.

 

The relief efforts so desperately needed in those first weeks have eased. The Hurricane victims cannot find words enough to express their thanks and gratitude to all who reached out to help them. They are rebuilding their lives and homes but still need our prayers to rebuild their sense of security and maintain a spirit of hope. Mindful that the more we gave away the more new supplies came to us, the Baptistine Sisters involved with the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts continue to hear the echo of Father Founder:

 

“Trust in God, have firm hope in His Providence and you will lack nothing.”



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