January 21, 2005

Religious orders help
tsunami survivors in Asia

By Mary Ann Wyand

Three religious orders with nuns ministering in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have responded to the tsunami disaster on Dec. 26 in Asia by welcoming survivors to their convents in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The death toll had risen to 162,000 by Jan. 18.

Missionaries of Charity Sister M. Gaynel, superior of the convent in Indianapolis, said “God protected us” in Velankani, India, where their convent is only a 10-minute walk from the ocean.

She said Sister Nirmala, mother superior of the international Missionaries of Charity order based in Calcutta, “went there on Dec. 27 upon hearing that the area was affected to help with the relief work.”

Sister M. Gaynel said all the Missionaries of Charity sisters in Sri Lanka are fine, but “there is a great need for prayer and material help.”

A Jan. 2 statement released by the motherhouse of the international Little Sisters of the Poor confirmed that all of their homes for the elderly poor were intact in Colombo and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka, Madras and Tuticorin in India, and Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

“Our homes all survived, but we are not yet aware of their condition, resources and losses,” the statement said. “While we thank God for the safety of our homes, we can only imagine the impact a tragedy of this magnitude has on the residents, both by the disruption of their daily routine and by concerns for family, friends and neighbors.”

The Little Sisters’ statement noted that Batticaloa in Sri Lanka was the worst hit and about 1,000 people had sought refuge on their compound.

“We later received word that the home is housing 120 [refugee] families and that there is concern for how to avoid infection with the children,” the Little Sisters’ statement said. “This type of situation in itself is not new to Batticaloa. Whenever tragedy, threats from the Tamil rebels or other crises prompted people to leave their homes or made them homeless, they often would take refuge by the dozens around our home, where they felt safe. It is always possible to share another crumb of bread.”

Through the order’s motherhouse in France, the Little Sisters are coordinating efforts to send material support to the Little Sisters and residents in the Asian countries devastated by the tsunami.

A statement from the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary described the work that the sisters are doing to help tsunami survivors.

“In Kollam, [India], there are more than 35,000 tsunami victims,” the statement reads. “Some of them have lost everything. Some others are partly affected. They are all now [in] different refugee camps.”

Many of the people are being housed in tents due to concerns about health, hygiene and disease.

“Besides the material help many of our sisters are doing … sisters are also engaged in caring for the people, giving them counseling and guidance,” the statement reads. “Some of the survivors say that the terrible tsunami event haunts them as a nightmare.” †


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