Deacon Gueret: Faith in action after devastating tornado in Lee County kills 23 people
By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
Even though residents of Beauregard, Ala., saw their town almost instantly turned into a “war zone,” Deacon Raymond Gueret said their faith in God was obvious.
Gueret serves as director of the Catholic Social Services Montgomery Office and has made multiple trips to Lee County since an EF4 tornado killed 23 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of home.
Beauregard is less than 10 miles from both Opelika and Auburn, homes of the Archdiocese of Mobile’s St. Mary of the Mission Parish and St. Michael the Archangel Parish.
“What I saw were resilient people coming together to rebuild. What was common in all the people was their faith in God,” Gueret noted after a visit March 9. “We can never understand why this happened or why the innocent died. We live in a fallen world where we are constantly challenged to strengthen our faith. It was refreshing to see faith in action with all the volunteers helping those who they do not know.”
The faith persists despite the devastating conditions.
The National Weather Service’s Chris Darden said the tornado that hit Lee County clocked in at 170 mph. It created a swath a mile wide and 70 miles long.
President Donald Trump approved disaster funds for the area and visited tornado victims March 8. The Lee County tornado was one of 18 that struck Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina that day.
“It is a sobering sight to see the destruction of a tornado. Their house trailer was totally gone, nothing left of it but for remnants of siding, window frames and insulation scattered across the countryside,” Gueret said in reference to where he was assigned. “What was once a beautiful forest now resembles a war zone, but without the smell of gunpowder.”
For those wanting to make a monetary donation, checks should be made to the Archdiocese of Mobile c/o Msgr. Michael Farmer, 400 Government St., Mobile, AL 36602. Visit mobarch.org to donate with credit card.
Along with donations, Gueret said prayers are needed.
“I have no idea how long before things get back to normal, it looks like it may be years to rebuild. We need to take the long range view to assist those affected by the storms. Certainly they need the physical needs, but all of us need to pray for spiritual healing and comfort in their time of loss,” he said.
Meanwhile condolences and support have come from all corners of the earth.
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi received a telegram from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, which said that Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life and the injuries caused by the tornado” and expressed his “heartfelt solidarity with all affected by this natural disaster.”
“He prays that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead, especially the children, and healing and consolation to the injured and those who grieve,” the cardinal said, adding that the pope invoked “the Lord’s blessings of peace and strength.”
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the USCCB domestic policy committee also joined in expressing sorrow for those in Alabama.
“It is with heavy hearts that we continue to learn about the destruction,” the Catholic leaders said in a statement released March 6.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, also encouraged “generous support” for storm victims as Lent began.
“Our hope, in this Lenten season, as always, is in the Lord of life who has conquered death,” Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane said in their joint statement. “May the Lord grant eternal rest to those who have died, and may the Holy Spirit work through all of us to give comfort to those who are grieving with generosity and love.”
Archbishop Rodi also asked for prayers for those who died, for their families and for “those who have lost homes and businesses.”
“The catastrophic tornadoes which occurred (March 3) in the Archdiocese of Mobile have brought loss of life and devastating damage,” Archbishop Rodi said March 4.”I am asking for prayers for those who lost their lives and for their loved ones, as well as for those who have lost homes and businesses. In the meantime, Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Mobile has reached out to the pastors of the affected areas to offer assistance for those in need. Catholic Social Services stands ready to be a part of the recovery.”
— Catholic News Service contributed to this report.