World offers prayers for Queensland flood victims


Catholic Mission Queensland Flood News Story
Outskirts of flooded Theodore, Queensland.
Graphic news images of the devastating Queensland floods have brought forth many offerings of prayers and condolences from Catholic Mission offices around the world, as people in countries that have known natural disasters express their solidarity with the distressed flood victims.

“I am overwhelmed by the news that the affected area is equivalent to Germany and France combined,” said Catholic Mission Ireland’s Director, Fr Gary Howley.

“It is difficult to comprehend the extent of such flooding, it is so enormous. We offer our prayers, good wishes and sympathy to all who are suffering the flood devastation.”

Fr Howley’s concern was mirrored in messages received from Catholic Mission offices in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania.

“We will be remembering all the people affected in our Mass today,” said Monsignor John Dale, Catholic Mission’s UK Director.

Most poignant among the messages of fidelity is one from Fr Mario Rodrigues, Catholic Mission’s Director in Pakistan.

“I am very sorry to hear about what is happening. Please be assured of my prayers. We know what you are going through and remember your prayers during our recent flood. I will inform people all over Pakistan about it and ask them to remember the Australians in their prayers. God Bless you all.”

'We just have to sit it out'

Hardest hit by the floods has been the Diocese of Rockhampton, an area of 414,400 square kilometres where the cities of Bundaberg and Rockhampton have been cut off by flood waters, while towns like Theodore, Jericho and Emerald have been covered by fast running, brown water.

At the epicentre of the floodwaters is the town of Theodore surrounded by cotton and citrus crops, cattle farms, coal and gold mining operations. Situated on a spit of land between the Dawson River and Castle Creek, Theodore – including Sacred Heart Catholic Church - was submerged on Christmas Day.

Almost two weeks later, crops are ruined, mines are indefinitely closed, and the streets are still awash. The evacuated population waits at a distance for the water to recede – even as rain continues to fall.

Parish Priest Fr Noel Milner, pastor to the Valleys Region who travels 600 kilometres each Sunday to celebrate Mass in three towns, including Theodore, said: “We just have to sit it out, knowing that the clean-up will be a huge job and heartbreaking for those who have lost everything - home, furnishings and livelihood.”

In a country where fire, flood and drought are etched into the national psyche, Fr Milner said the local people are resilience.

“The community has seen marvellous expressions of support and there is a lot of good caring going on. We thank everyone for holding us in your prayers.”

Speaking from the town of Biloela, itself cut in two for more than 100 days because of floodwaters, Fr Milner expressed a typically Australian wry sense of humour in the face of adversity.

“For more than ten years we have been drought-affected. Our dam got down to three per cent of water. Now it’s at 95 per cent capacity. We’ve been praying for rain, though we didn’t expect it to come all at once.”

Standing in solidarity

Catholic Mission’s National Director Martin Teulan said the thoughts and prayers from the Catholic Mission global network is moving.

“I hope those affected by the floods will hear about this international support and take heart that their plight is of concern to others worldwide and that the people of Pakistan and other countries who have shared similar devastating experiences stand in solidarity with the people of Queensland,” Mr Teulan said.

“May as many as possible join in this action of prayerful support and give generously to the various appeals taking place for the people of flood torn Queensland.”

In 2010, Catholic Mission distributed $257,000 collectively to flood-affected regions in the dioceses of Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Toowoomba, via the Home Mission Fund. This fund exists to assist both rural dioceses and dioceses that have a higher proportion of Indigenous Australians.

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