On December 16, 2021, as Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines with full force, devastating the country and killing nearly 400 people, Father Virgilio Salas continued to celebrate Mass.
More than a week after the passage of the “super typhoon” Rai, which hit the central and southern Philippines on December 16, 2021, the toll of this natural disaster is increasing: 375 people died and hundreds of thousands are now without a roof over their heads, without water and without electricity. The survivors are organizing themselves to help each other, especially through the network of their parishes (the country is mostly Catholic).
“Even with a typhoon, faith continues,” Father Virgilio Salas told ABS-CBN News, who continued to celebrate Mass and broadcast it despite the violent winds that hit the island of Bohol, where his church was located, on December 16. Indeed, on that day, Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Tagbilaran, a city located on the island of Bohol was scheduled at 4pm. A handful of faithful attended.
Despite the winds of the storm that became increasingly violent, Father Virgilio Salas, assisted by another priest of the parish, continued to celebrate the mass and to broadcast it live on the Internet:
“We did not stop saying Mass even though only a few people were present. The Church is committed to always praying for its faithful,” Father Salas later said to the media. For his part, the other priest explained that he felt both the fear of the storm and the serenity of someone who gives priority to the spiritual life of the faithful.
Proactivity to face the next typhoon
The two parish priests are natives of Bohol and are accustomed to the occurrence of typhoons: that is why they invested in a generator.
They are also committed to mobilizing the community to adopt better measures to cope with the recurring storms. In this regard, they reinforced the need for a change in attitude on the part of citizens and local authorities:
We are more reactive than proactive. We know a storm is coming, but we don’t move until it happens. Stations can’t provide water because of a lack of power. We can be proactive by providing generators for pumping stations and providing solar lighting and emergency equipment.
The parish is already doing its part and continues to encourage the population to do its part, at this time through donations of food, water and lanterns. The priests, of course, are also providing spiritual assistance:
In the midst of a storm, the disciples asked Jesus if he was not afraid to die. And the Lord asked them, “Why do you lose faith?”
They also recalled the humility of the conditions in which Jesus was born and drew a parallel between Christmas and helping others:
Even if it is something simple like water, share the water you have. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas despite the disaster. We are always here to do everything in our power for you.