Parish sends support to Philippine typhoon survivors
On Nov. 8, 2013, a devastating “super typhoon” with winds over 200 miles per hour slammed into the Philippines, killing thousands and causing catastrophic damage that affected more than 13 million people. In the city of Tacloban, considered “ground zero” of the typhoon, buildings were completely leveled, leaving residents stunned and homeless.
As the country began assessing the damage and massive loss of life, members of the close-knit Filipino community within the Diocese of Syracuse came together to offer their support and aid.
“This [storm] had a close affinity for our Filipino parishioners,” stated Father Eric de la Pena, OFM Conv., a priest at Assumption Church in Syracuse and a native of Manila. “The disaster is still fresh in everyone’s minds now, but it will take a long time for people to forget and a longer time to recover,” he said. “When the story is no longer in the headlines, people will forget that there are those in need. We cannot forget those who need our help.”
Assumption Church has an active ministry serving the Filipino community within the diocese. The first Sunday of every month, Assumption Church celebrates Mass for the Filipino community with parts of the hymns and liturgy in Tagalog, the main dialect of the Philippines.
“Each month it’s a celebration,” said Father de le Pena. “Following the Mass, parishioners bring food and everyone is welcome to come, eat and share fellowship.”
Shortly after reports came in of the tremendous destruction caused by the typhoon, Father de le Pena began receiving notes and letters containing financial support for the typhoon survivors.
“The entire community has been concerned,” said Father de le Pena. “People just are glad to be in a position to offer help, but it hasn’t just been the Filipino community offering help; it’s kindhearted people all over the diocese,” he said.
During Mass on Dec. 1, parishioners attending the Filipino Mass were given an opportunity to give financial support to typhoon survivors during a second offertory collection. The money that was collected will be sent directly to a medical mission within the Philippines.
During his homily, Father de le Pena looked out at the congregation solemnly.
“When the typhoon hit our country, it left an impression of human vulnerability. It showed us we can lose anything at any given moment. Our country was used to storms, sometimes over 20 storms in a
season, but this ‘super storm’ has never been seen in the Philippines before and no one had the experience to deal with it,” said Father de le Pena. “Remember, our life here on earth is very fragile and things change and can change at any moment. We are on ‘borrowed time’ and cannot take anything for granted.”
Father de le Pena urged the congregation to also do good works whenever possible. “Let us do the good we can to make a difference. We are in a good position to help those who are in need. This special collection will be sent to the victims of the typhoon and it puts into action the good we can do. Do good while you can,” stated Father de le Pena. “We are never sure of tomorrow.”
Following the Mass, members of the congregation gathered to speak of the typhoon and share memories of their homeland.
Erlina Lalone, a member of The Filipino Association and of Holy Family Parish in Fairmount, spoke of the typhoon as she passed a serving dish to a young family.
“One hundred percent of that collection deserves to go to those families affected,” stated Lalone. “The Filipino Association has been very concerned and is looking to find more ways to help. We will be holding a Christmas party with raffles and using the proceeds to help the survivors.”
Genelyn Kluebert, a parishioner of Assumption Church, handed out plates to those lining up at the buffet. “The people of the Philippines need so much help,” said Kluebert softly. “I had friends that were affected, and the town where the typhoon hit is not far from my home town.”
As she sat down to eat and share fellowship with friends, Adela Schauwecer of Central Square sighed.
“My mother’s hometown was where the typhoon hit. They lost houses. They lost everything,” she said as she looked around the room. “How can we not help?”
For more information on the efforts of the Filipino Apostolate of Assumption ministry, contact Erlinda Lalone at (315) 482-1550.