Dear Friend in Christ,

It’s October 20th, one month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.  The entire Caribbean island, 110 miles long by 40 miles wide, has been completely decimated.  We have added Puerto Rico to our list of Miles Jesu Missions because of the epic humanitarian crisis the Puerto Rican people are undergoing coupled with our ‘boots on the ground’ capabilities to bring aid directly to more than 50 families a day as our mission just begins.

As it happens, Miles Jesu has three Puerto Rican professed members among our domus ranks: Elizabeth, MJ (assigned to Phoenix), Geraldine, MJ (assigned to Rome) and Yolanda, MJ (assigned to Madrid); and one candidate, Angélica (at our MJ community in Phoenix).  All three MJ consecrated ladies and our candidate are from the hilly area of El Tuque, in the southern coastal city of Ponce (second in size to the northern capital of San Juan). In addition, we have various vinculum members residing in Puerto Rico, many of them in Ponce where MJ members have worked for years.

Guardsmen from the Puerto Rico National Guard, along with employees from the Aqueducts and Sewers Authority of Puerto Rico, distribute water for the communities of Utuado, P.R., Sept. 26.After the impact of Hurricane Maria, 2,175 service members, including the PRNG, had been mobilized in the territory to support the efforts of the government in the reconstruction of the island.(Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/PRNG-PAO)Elizabeth’s family (her parents, Angel and Elizabeth; and her brother Dennis) have been heading up our daily Hurricane Relief effort in Puerto Rico since days after the horrendous hurricane hit. We have established our own network of communication and aid with Elizabeth in Phoenix as the main point person between our MJ Missions volunteers on the front lines in Puerto Rico and Màire, MJ, in Chicago, our General Administrator and one of the founding members of Miles Jesu’s presence in Puerto Rico back in the mid-80’s.

Elizabeth’s brother, Dennis, traveled to Puerto Rico on Sunday, Oct. 8th, on behalf of the MJ Missions with three big pieces of luggage and two small ones filled with canned goods and food for the needy on the island and especially in Ponce. Since his arrival, he and Elizabeth’s father, Angel, have been driving around Ponce and nearby towns looking for those most in need and delivering bags of food and bottles of water to them.  They have encountered many families who have lost everything.  Some of the families they have visited did not have any food left.  Not only do they deliver the food, but help cut down falling trees and clear debris from the roads and from in front of people’s homes.  Angel has commented several times that the situation is extremely difficult with so many families in dire need.  He is also keeping an eye on the elderly who live alone nearby and taking them to doctors’ appointments or just checking up on them to make sure they are okay.

In order to communicate with Elizabeth in Phoenix, Angel drives up a nearby mountain, home to a Holiday Inn and, fortunately, a cell phone signal. Communication may be a hit or miss, but he tries to call her on a daily basis just to check in.  All of a sudden Elizabeth started receiving calls from different people in the Ponce area asking for help in filling out FEMA forms for aid in reconstructing their homes.  When Elizabeth asked her dad if he had given out her number to anyone, his response was, “Oh yes, I mentioned to someone that you had filled out the application for me and told them you would be willing to help them, too.”  The calls usually come early in the morning Phoenix hour. When asked where they are calling from, the answer usually is, “de la montaña” (from the mountain).  Elizabeth is becoming an expert at filling out the FEMA forms and grateful to God that she can help her suffering people more directly in this way.

On October 14th, Geraldine flew from our Miles Jesu community in Rome to Puerto Rico. “Aid is slow,” she says.  “There’s lots of need in Ponce itself.  Supermarkets are low on food and water. Sometimes there’s electricity in some places and other times not.  The hospitals are reporting bacterial outbreaks.  The death toll has risen.  There are reports of cholera.  It’s sad, but some people in political office are stealing the aid meant for the people.  So far 14 suicides have been reported. People think the number is higher. We must keep trusting in God that all will be well.  For now, our prayer is that the heavy rains stop.”

Every day, after morning Mass, Geraldine and Elizabeth’s mom go to supermarkets to buy food.  Prices have tripled. At first, they were only allowed to buy one of each item.  But now because of the charitable mission they are carrying out, they can buy more.  They buy rice, beans, milk, coffee, oatmeal, corned beef, corn meal, tomato sauce, condiments, vegetables, pasta, pasta sauce, etc… and some extra candies, juice and cookies for the children.  They get enough to put together about 50 bags of groceries a day to be given out to families most in need.  After distributing the food they head back to the supermarkets to get more for the next day’s mission.

“It is not just the food and water they so desperately need,” says Geraldine of the many families they are visiting, “but also a listening ear, someone they can speak to about their experience of the hurricane and its aftermath.  Many people are suffering from PTSD or other forms of depression as they struggle to survive in what’s left of their mold-ridden homes. We are here to bring God’s love, consolation and hope to them in any way we can.”

Our MJ Missions group consists of some 20 volunteers, most of them from Elizabeth’s extended family.  Teenagers are among the helpers including Elizabeth’s 16-year old cousin, David, who is discerning whether God is calling him to the priesthood.  Elizabeth tells us, “My family is well, thanks be to God… We thank God they are well and are able to help others.” The MJ Missions team has been the first ones to arrive with help to different areas in and around Ponce.

Geraldine tells us, “We tried to go see MJ vinculum member, Mimi, in Guaynabo, but we couldn’t make it there.  The roads were bad. We haven’t heard from Mimi since receiving a text message shortly after the storm.  It’s been raining hard on the whole island.  Meanwhile in Ponce, Yolanda’s dad is well.  We keep an eye out for him and bring him food.”  Geraldine continues, “The parish priest in El Tuque is organizing a group of people to go reach out to those in need in the poorer areas even though they themselves are in need.  We have given him some money in order to multiply our efforts; and some extra money to help repair the church.”

Please help our Miles Jesu Missions today, especially now our Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief effort. The more you help us, the more we can help them. Your sacrifice of a large gift, a monthly pledge or whatever you can give truly makes all the difference. In Miles Jesu we pray for our benefactors daily at Mass and in our holy hours and rosaries because the Miles Jesu Missions depend upon God’s help through people like you.

Yours in Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Thomas Cahill, MJ
General Director

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