ST. FRANCIS — For two days Lourdes Ruta didn’t know if her brother and two aunts, both in their 90s, were alive or dead.

A Mass for Victims of Typhoon Haiyan will be celebrated Sunday, Nov. 17 at St. Roman Parish, 1710 W. Bolivar Ave., Milwaukee. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., with Mass at 1:30 p.m.

Ruta, a member of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Milwaukee, waited anxiously for news from her family in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the country on Friday, Nov. 8. With communication between Ruta and her brother on the island of Cebu cut off, she waited desperately for information, relying on sources like National Public Radio, for information about her homeland.

Finally, on Sunday, Nov. 10, when her brother’s power was restored, he Skyped with Ruta, and assured her the family was OK.
According to her brother, Ruta said the greatest need is clean water.

“They lost electricity for two days because of the strong winds,” Ruta said, adding she also had a friend in the Peace Corps who was evacuated before the worst hit.

“She said she never saw such devastation,” Ruta said. “She said there are dead bodies everywhere, children and people.”
In spite of the devastation, Ruta said the family’s faith remains strong.

“They always turn to prayer when things like that happen,” Ruta said. “I always pray at night with my husband so we included them in our prayers.”

Ruta said she’s also thankful for an outpouring of support from friends.

“In times like this, people come together,” she said. “Because of the community spirit.”

The Milwaukee Archdiocese also stands ready to help, according to Rob Shelledy, coordinator of the archdiocese’s social justice ministry.

“In situations like this, where there’s a natural disaster overseas … there tends to be a build up to response,” he said. “It’s been obviously in the news over the last couple days; it takes a little while for people to hear about it unless they have a direct connection.”

He noted that one way to donate monetarily is through Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.

“Particularly in overseas things, people want to get involved and the best way to get involved is obviously by praying and sending money to various relief organizations,” Shelledy said. “Catholic Relief Services ­– they have set up a direct fund for people who want to donate direct to that relief.” Ricardo Torres