Ecuador: "We Are Afraid That The Earth Will Quake Again"
At least 587 people are now known to have died in the earthquake that struck the coast of Ecuador on Saturday 16th April. A religious sister and five postulants from the "Siervas del Hogar de la Madre" community in Playa Prieta are among the victims.
The pervading smells in the streets of Portoviejo are those of decomposing bodies and smoke. People are begging desperately for water, food, and blankets. Nobody sleeps at home - not even those whose houses are still standing. "We are afraid that the earth will quake again," a tearful a young missionary says.
The missionary continues: "It was two minutes before the start of the 7 o'clock Mass on Saturday [April 16], when the ground began to shake. The earthquake was very, very strong. Suddenly a large part of the roof fell. In a few seconds, fear, blood and cries had spread through the church. I could only pray and ask God that it would stop as soon as possible." In the city, he says, "the bodies are beginning to decompose. We have no water, and the power is being continually cut off. Our country is not prepared for this".
The lifeless bodies of Sister Clare Crocket, an Irish missionary who had been in Ecuador for 15 years, and of 5 postulants - Jazmina, María Augusta, Maira, Valeria, and Catalina - were found under the rubble. Helpers managed to rescue three other sisters of the community, who are alive and in hospital with severe wounds - Sister Estela Morales (Spain), Sister Merly (Ecuador), and Sister Thérèse Ryan (Ireland) - alongside two Ecuadorian postulants: Guadalupe and Mercedes.
The Siervas del Hogar de la Madre run a school on the coast which, according to locals reporting from the scene, was completely destroyed by the earthquake.
In light of the earthquake, the Bishops of Ecuador have offered a word of comfort and faith in the Lord to the Ecuadorian people. They wrote in a statement: "Our thoughts go especially to our brothers and sisters in the provinces of Manabi and Esmeraldas, who seem so far to be the most affected, and we invite everyone to participate in the national collection for the victims, in order to help them in their most urgent needs".
Caritas-Ecuador has received 4,068 requests for help from 23 provinces in the country, and even from Ipiales and Pasto, two cities in Colombia.
The Government of Ecuador's "Secretariat for Civil Protection" reported that the earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale, was the strongest since 1979. Six provinces on the Pacific coast were declared emergency zones: Esmeraldas, Los Ríos, Manabí, Santa Elena, Guayas, and Santo Domingo.
According to Ecuador's Risk Management Office, 155 people remain missing and 8,015 are injured. Almost 25,000 people remain in shelters.
Pope Francis Mission Intention for May
"That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace." Let us Pray.
The rosary is a powerful prayer. Pope Francis for whom it is very important has said that he was inspired by Pope St. John Paul II to pray it faithfully.
He said: "If I remember well, it was 1985. One evening I went to recite the Holy Rosary that was being led by the Holy Father. He was in front of everybody, on his knees. The group was numerous; I saw the Holy Father from the back and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our Pastor.
"In the middle of the prayer I became distracted, looking at the figure of the Pope: his piety, his devotion was a witness. I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: 'Don't be afraid, am I not perhaps your mother?' I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. From that time on
I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day."
Throughout history popes have asked the faithful to pray the rosary when Christianity and civilization were threatened. Pope Francis asks us to do the same. He said: "Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this 'suffering' dimension that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against evil. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle."
In this month dedicated to Mary, we honor her by following in the great tradition of using the non-violent weapon of the rosary, praying for peace and the spread of the Gospel of Mercy.
Scripture (Luke 2: 15-20) Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
Pope Francis General Intention for May
"That in every country of the world, women may be honoured and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed." Let us Pray.
It's inconceivable to think of the apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit at Pentecost without Mary praying with them. For it was she who conceived by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus, the one who called and sent the apostles to continue his work.
Women have, in Pope Francis' words, an "irreplaceable role." Speaking to the Pontifical Council for Culture, he said: "I encourage the contribution of so many women who work within the family, in the areas of teaching the faith, pastoral work, schooling, but also in social, cultural, and economic structures. You women know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated into a willingness to give time rather than to occupy space, to welcome rather than to exclude."
Throughout the world, unfortunately, women are not only excluded but under attack. The Pope went on: "The many forms of slavery, of prostitution, of mutilation of the female body, require us to set to work to defeat these forms of degradation which reduce it to purely an object to be sold on the various markets. I would like to call attention, in this context, to the plight of so many poor women, forced to live in dangerous conditions, exploited, relegated to the margins of society, and rendered victims of a throwaway culture."
And so we pray with Pope Francis that women may not only be respected, but that their contribution to the good of the family and society may be recognized and esteemed.
Scripture (1 Timothy 5: 1-2): Treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters with complete purity.
Institute Intention for May
"That Our Lady may lead us to a deeper and more intense encounter with God, our Father, who, in his mercy, regenerates us. Lord, hear us." Lord hear us.
Prayer of the Month
"O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary, O dearest Mother." Amen.
--from a prayer by Bl. Bartolo Longo