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Marist Bulletin - Number 177

 

Letter from the Superior General, Seán D. Sammon, FMS
11.01.2005

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Dear Brothers and all those who cherish St. Marcellin’s charism ,
We know the facts well. In the early morning hours of December 26th, 2004 an earthquake of significant magnitude occurred on the floor of the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Indonesia. Several tidal waves quickly formed and began traveling at ever increasing speed toward the coastal areas of countries in the region. Later that morning they came ashore. In but a few minutes more than 140,000 men women and children, houses, villages, tourist resorts, and hopes and dreams of a generation were swept away.
Today as part of the world and Church community we share the task of helping so many to begin again. We must find ways to heal those injured, to mend their spirits, and to build hope for another day. As Marcellin’s brothers we have a special responsibility for the last two, the mending of spirits and the building of hope, particularly among the many children left homeless and alone as a result of this tragedy. In Sri Lanka alone, 40% of those dead were children.
As I mentioned in my letter of last week, Marist presence in the affected area are found mostly in India (Tamil Nadu) and in Sri Lanka. Fortunately, none of our brothers in the region lost his life in this tragedy nor were any seriously injured. Sadly, not all of their family members were as fortunate, and we are receiving reports of some injuries among them. In addition, we are learning that buildings used by the brothers in their ministry were also damaged, with at least one suffering significant destruction as a result of the water’s tremendous force as it came ashore.
Despite the confusion and fear that has gripped the people in the region and technical problems limiting communication, members of our BIS team and several Council members have been in regular contact with our brothers in India and Sri Lanka to discuss ways in which we might be of help.
All have been talking within a set of realistic criteria. For example, we do not want to duplicate aid already being given by the many international organizations already present in the region. At the same time, we do want to stand in solidarity with our brothers and their fellow citizens in the region during this time of loss and suffering. Equally important: we want to be of help where we can, both now and during the days to come when many other groups have departed and the story is no longer as present in the minds of so many.
Understandably, in the confusion that exists in the region at the moment, our brothers are not able to assess the total extent of the damage that has occurred. At the same time, they are still working to evaluate not only the physical losses suffered by so many among those they serve but also the spiritual and emotional toll that this human tragedy has taken. We want to be ready to help them, when they are ready to tell us specifically what will be of greatest assistance.
Brothers and friends, remembering your extraordinary generosity in the past and being filled with gratitude for it, I write this evening to ask for your help. (…) I am grateful to Brothers Dominick Pujia and the members of the BIS team, Marcela Ossandon and Riccardo Ducci, as well as Council Members Brothers Emili Turú and Peter Rodney, and Brother Antonio Martinez, Econome General, for the fine work that they have done on this appeal outline. It provides us all with an overview of the situation currently, a summary of the details of the appeal that I am making, and a description of how you may be of help through your prayers, your efforts to let others know about this appeal, and your own donations directly to it.
We are often better at reconstructing buildings than we are in restoring meaning. But efforts on both fronts are called for in this crisis. So while we help with our financial contributions and our interest, let us continue to pray for the homeless children of the region, those who lost their wife or husband, and those for whom most of their family perished in the wave. Let us pray, too, for those who are now with God. May God’s mercy and everlasting peace be of some consolation to those left behind.
With thanks for whatever assistance you might provide. May this New Year be a time of greater peace in our world.

Blessings,
Brother Seán D. Sammon, FMS
Superior General

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