Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau celebrated Mass Sunday, September 8 at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Nassau on New Providence Island for evacuee families and Catholic school staff members a week after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the islands, Sunday, September 1.
At the Mass, the Archbishop spoke about the hurricane’s aftermath and invited the people to come up for a blessing. The congregation then spent some time in quiet prayer commending to God the many who perished.
In a Catholic Standard report, the Archbishop described Hurricane Dorian as a “horrific experience” where many lost all their possessions.
“It is sheer terror and confusion for those who had their homes compromised in the middle of the storm and had to relocate, and all the challenges that poses, and then be taken to places where there were large crowds of people,” Archbishop Pinder told Catholic News Agency.
He said most of the stories he heard were of terror, fear, pain and loss.
The death toll in the Bahamas climbed to 45 the morning of September 9 and was expected to continue rising as search and rescue operations continue from the storm which stalled over the northern Bahamas, September 1–3.
The Bahamas government estimates that Dorian affected 70,000 and 60 per cent may have lost their homes. Many people are reportedly still unaccounted for.
In a phone interview with the archdiocesan newspaper of Miami, Florida Catholic, Archbishop Pinder said two schools and one parish on Abaco Island were destroyed: St Francis de Sales Catholic School in Treasure Cay, and Every Child Counts School for Special Students in Marsh Harbour, along with Sts Mary and Andrew RC Church and rectory in Treasure Cay, which the Archbishop described as “a pile of rubble” following Dorian.
On Grand Bahama Island near Freeport, the retreat centre and church of Mary Star of the Sea were damaged. A group of storm evacuees have taken up temporary residence at St Francis de Sales and Mary Star of the Sea parishes.
The Archbishop noted that all of the archdiocesan priests are accounted for following the hurricane. He also said he has received messages of support and offers of assistance from near and far, including “a lot of support from the Miami Archdiocese”. What worries him now is “making sure everyone has the basic needs and that we have a good assessment of the needs and priorities”.
Archbishop Pinder said the plan is to accommodate all the displaced Catholic school students at Catholic schools in New Providence Island and there has also been discussion about accommodating some of the displaced students from public schools.
Plans are also underway to offer post-traumatic stress counselling for Dorian survivors.