Filipino community gathers to pray for typhoon victims

SOUTH END -- The archdiocese and the Filipino Apostolate of Boston held a Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to support victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Nov. 16. The Mass focused on a Catholic call to prayer, as well as work on behalf of those suffering.

As nearly 1,000 people gathered at the cathedral to pray, they also received a Mass program with detailed information about ways to help local people find missing loved ones, report disaster fraud, volunteer their talent, and where to donate on behalf of victims.

Alongside principle celebrant Father Michael C. Harrington, concelebrant and homilist Father Cyriac C. Mattathilanickal, MS, chaplain of the Filipino Apostolate of Boston, called the gathered to stand with the Filipino community in prayer and action.

"Tonight we gather to honor them. We gather in solidarity with their suffering, pain and loss. We gather to mourn the loss of life. We gather to lament. We gather to pray. We gather to offer hope, strength and courage to the survivors of this storm. We gather to tell the survivors that you are not alone, we are one with you in your suffering and pain. We gather to tell them that love is stronger than the typhoon, death and devastation," Father Mattathilanickal said.

He described images he had seen as he followed the news around the devastation in the Philippines, in the days after the typhoon hit.

"A young woman who lost her husband and still searching for her two other children. She sleeps in the debris still holding on to the bodies of her two children, waiting at least to find the body of her lost children," he said.

The scenes he described posed questions that called for answers from people of faith.

"For those still looking for loved ones missing since last week's storm, their already torn-apart lives are shot through with a difficult question -- How do you move on when there is no body to bury? How do we pick up the shattered lives and make the next step to the future?" he asked.

He said he heard an interview with a survivor who thanked God for sparing her life, and said she saw that her life must then have a purpose in the face of disaster.

"That woman speaks of the legendary resilience, strength, courage, and most importantly the faith of the Filipino. She chooses to trust in God in the midst of all tragedy, death, confusion, chaos, and darkness. That woman sums up the desire of every survivor who wants to make sense out of this mess," Father Mattathilanickal said.

He also noted that he saw images a group of faithful survivors gathered near their ruined church on a Sunday, even as it lay as rubble.

"It was humbling and encouraging to see people last Sunday, despite everything they'd suffered from this typhoon, gathering for Mass close to the remains of their beloved church buildings, which had crumbled before the elemental forces," he said.

In response to these images of faith, he exhorted the gathered to respond with solid action of support and giving.

"This is the time to roll up our sleeves and work hard to rebuild. It is a time to straighten up flattened homes, lives, and communities," Father Mattathilanickal said.

Organizers of the Mass said the collection -- including a second collection authorized by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley -- raised nearly $10,000. The Filipino Apostolate will send the money through Catholic Relief Services to benefit victims in the Philippines.

"None of us might know the depth of suffering and pain, but all of us can tonight reach out to our brothers and sisters in prayer, in generous giving of our money, talents and gifts, and resources. May the Lord who feeds us in this Eucharist help us feed others with love, hope and charity," Father Mattathilanickal said.