NEW YORK –– Everywhere New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he has gone to visit people and communities in the hurricane-ravaged areas of the archdiocese, he has heard stories “not just of the pain and destruction caused by Sandy, but the overwhelming goodness of people in helping those in need.”
He made the comments in a Nov. 8 statement to announce the success of special collection to respond to families, individuals, parishes, Catholic institutions and charities, and other community organizations harmed by Sandy.
Cardinal Dolan asked that all of the archdiocese’s nearly 375 parishes hold a special collection the weekends of Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 10-11.
The final tally for the collection will not be known until sometime after the second weekend, but pastors were already “reporting a generous response from the people to this special appeal for help,” the cardinal’s announcement said.
The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation and the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal will each contribute an additional $500,000 to the relief fund.
Cardinal Dolan praised the response of individuals and agencies alike to the devastation and hardship caused by the super storm.
“Catholic Charities and our parishes are doing a magnificent job in reaching out and providing help to people on Staten Island, in Lower Manhattan and elsewhere, as are so many other agencies and individuals,” he said. “This new fund will augment those efforts already under way in providing direct aid where it is needed most.”
A board of pastors from those areas of the archdiocese most affected by the hurricane will oversee distribution of the funds to ensure they go to the people and institutions most in need of help with their recovery efforts.
“We have an obligation –– a sacred duty –– to help those who are hurting,” Cardinal Dolan said. “The efforts of the Catholic Church, along with so many other organizations and individuals, are helping us to fulfill this responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters in need.”
During a visit on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, to emergency shelters, embattled firehouses and flooded churches in Manhattan and on Staten Island, Cardinal Dolan said he wanted to “bring a word of encouragement or inspiration” to people struggling to put their lives back in order after Hurricane Sandy.
Instead, he said he found himself being stirred by the New Yorkers he encountered.
“I got it backwards. These people inspire me! They are a living homily,” the cardinal told Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, as he visited a shelter set up at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Manhattan’s West Side.
“What they say to us is like a page out of the Gospel. They say, ‘My house is destroyed, all my earthly possessions are destroyed but I got my life, I got my faith, I got my friends, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my community.’ That’s a pearl of great price. Jesus said that,” he said.
“These people are an inspiration. They are people of tremendously profound faith,” the cardinal added. “Faith comes through at moments of trial, and that’s what we’ve got now.”
After that visit, the cardinal immediately headed to Staten Island where he spent the afternoon comforting residents who were still reeling from the storm. He visited some of the areas hardest hit by Sandy, from South Beach to Tottenville.
Being with New Yorkers in the days after the storm, Cardinal Dolan said, had given him a heightened respect for how they handle themselves during a crisis.
“I admired New York from afar after 9/11,” he said. “And now I’ve got a box seat. I don’t have a box seat, I’m on the playing field! And they’re just amazing with the solidarity, with the compassion. It’s phenomenal.”
After Hurricane Sandy made landfall Oct. 29 in New Jersey, the state as well as New York City, and Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island were among the areas hit the hardest. The storm surge reached 14 feet in some places, killing more than 100 people and leaving millions without power.
As of Nov. 9, fewer than 20,000 New York City residents were in the dark. New Jersey still had 253,000 customers without power and Long Island nearly 200,000, according to news reports. That tally was down from a total of 5.5 million in all three states at the height of Sandy.
The New York City subway continued to work toward resuming full service; drivers faced a gas rationing system that when into effect Nov. 9 in New York City and Long Island, nearly a week after New Jersey put in place a similar system.
The economic damage created by the storm could reach $50 billion, according to an AP report.
Contributing to this story was Ron Lajoie, who is on the staff of Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.