On September 20th and 21st, Puerto Rico was victim of the Hurricane Maria, with winds of 275km/h, causing serious and catastrophic damage throughout the island. All this time we have been worried about our brothers there, following their news through the media, but with many difficulties for direct contact due to the problems with telephony or internet they are suffering. A couple of days ago, Nancy Burgos, Caribe Region Coordinator, could at least respond to the General Council and inform us with this letter that we are sharing with you:
I tell you my dear Bernardeta that the situation in our country is very complex. On one hand, you are listening all the time, especially from the government, the great advances that are being made, the great and many aid that is coming, etc. But on the other hand, when you go out on the street, when you are visiting people especially the most vulnerable, you can see another sad and painful reality. As it happens all around the world, the generosity of the simplest people is the one that is raising the communities. The aid of the government and private companies is diluted very slowly and unfortunately does not often reach the neediest.
It has been 55 days since the hurricane passed and only 30% of the island has electricity service. An unusual thing! There are still communities where potable water has not arrived, they must go to rivers, springs, etc ... to have water. Because many bridges have been broken, there are communities that cannot be reached except, for example, crossing rivers, which makes it difficult to get supplies to them.
Many shops, stores, etc, have been closed because of the lack of electricity. Many Puerto Ricans have decided to purchase portable power generators, a rather high cost that, in addition to the cost of the equipment, is followed by the high cost of fuel. Until yesterday more than 100 thousand people have left the Island to go to the United States!
Anyway, I could make you an extensive list, but they are numbers that you can find and check in any news portal. I only told you some information just to help me to explain the environment we are living in my country.
To everyone, absolutely everyone, has changed our lives in every way. A lot of people have lost their jobs. May be because the place where they were going to work does not exist, or if it exists, it was very damaged and therefore inoperative, or because the owners of the company decided to close the business and go to another country because the investment to fix is very high, or because they do not have the resources to buy and sustain a portable power generator and obviously, without electric power, they cannot operate. Anyway, for any of the reasons above, thousands of people have been left without work; which is why there is a large percentage of Puerto Ricans who emigrate day by day.
Without going further; my office is still closed: there is no electricity, there is no water, there are several repairs to do ... I am working from home, focused in this moment on the reports for the insurance claim of our office, of Mission House, of the School, Parish and other properties of the Claretian Missionaries that are damaged. We are working on the identification of damages, asking for quotations, coordination of meetings with suppliers, etc. Sometimes, I go to the Parish and others to the School. But in none of these places, neither in the Parish nor in the School, the internet and electricity arrived only 3 days ago. For the internet, I had to work with my phone and it's very difficult. Finally, thanks to God, today I have internet and I will be able to work much better from home.
On the other hand, I tell you that together with my community (Kaleo) we have integrated ourselves to work on a very beautiful Project that Father Hector Cuadrado has organized together with the Pastoral Council of the Parish. It is called "The Solidarity Visit". We are visiting the whole community, house by house, talking with people, learning about their situation, raising data that will help us respond to the needs we are encountering.
It is a beautiful project that is allowing us to know every one of those who are part of the parish community, whether or not they attend the Parish. And we see face to face their needs, their concerns, and that is giving us a tremendous vision, a very complete radiography of our community. And we are happy going out to the street, something that Pope Francis has insisted so much on us; that the Church approaches the house, especially in these moments that we are living. This brings us deep gratitude to the Lord for this great opportunity.
Dear Bernardeta, do not interpret this writing as a complaint or regret. I just wanted to try to show you a little about the difficult situation we are living, not in the negative sense, but so that you have a clear picture of wh
at is happening in Puerto Rico. On the other hand, I tell you that it is beautiful to experience that in the middle of this small chaos, we are living a time of Grace because we feel the presence of God's Mercy. We find him in every smile offered to us or that we offer, in every hand extended to help, in every situation of pain or impotence that reminds us of our fragility and our need to abandon ourselves to Him, confidently.
We have learned to enjoy detachments. Without cell phones, without internet, without cinemas, without television, the family is rediscovered, neighbours are known, we discovered the beauty of silence and we lost many distractions that in many occasions obstruct our encounter with others ...
I do not deny that it is hard, that it is sad, that sometimes it is even overwhelming to see so many brothers suffering and many times one feels powerless, but I also know that everything happens for something, that this is what life is about, about ups and downs and that we must keep alive our faith in the God Love, in the God Mercy. And as I have said on other occasions Puerto Rico, that already lived through Maria's passage; now is experiencing the Step of God.
A request: pray for us, for our people, and especially so that the Lay Claretians can respond with generosity to this special call we have received. May we be of open hands and hearts, of faces illuminated by the Joy of the Risen One and hungry for justice. Let us be witnesses of Hope and givers of Tenderness.
Nancy Burgos, Regional Coordinator, Caribe Region