Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan, Catholic Relief Services, and Fraternal Sharing

Friday afternoon, local time, on March 11, 2011, folks living in Japan - particularly on part of the northern east coast - experienced the worst earthquake in Japan's recorded history. Then a tsunami hit, which damaged the cooling system of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, or Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, or however 福島第一原子力発電所 is transliterated to the version of the Latin alphabet Americans use to write in English.

Here in Minnesota, we have an expression that I think expresses the situation the many folks in Japan face: "it could be worse."

Fukushima: 'It Could be Worse;' It Could be Better

I do not intend to make fun of what survivors in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, and other places are experiencing. But, despite freezing cold; no power; food and medical supplies running out; roads and towns destroyed; a malfunctioning nuclear power plant, and (a very little extra) radiation in spinach - - - yes, it could be worse.

Reactors at the Fukushima power plant will most likely never generate power again, but it looks like the situation there isn't deteriorating any more. Several days with no explosions, under the circumstances, is good news. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (March 19, 2011))

Japan, Lent, and the 'Futility' of Altruism

Talking with one of my daughters recently, I noted that altruism, "the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others," (Princeton's WordNet) was impossible for an informed Christian: at least in the sense of helping others with no thought of reward. That led to a theological/philosophical discussion of God, psychology, and long-term vs. short-term goals. And that's almost another topic. (Matthew 5:3-12; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1716, 1821, 2550)

Anyway, as a practicing Catholic I don't have to wonder about whether or not I should be charitable. It's in - what else? - the rules:
"The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1438)
I don't mean to sound self-centered, but what's happening in Japan is a good opportunity for "fraternal sharing."

Which brings me to a press release, dated last Wednesday:
USCCB News Release

March 16, 2011

"Bishops Voice Solidarity with Japan, Urge Catholics to Support Efforts of Catholic Relief Services Following Earthquake"

"WASHINGTON (March 16, 2011)-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed the prayers and solidarity of the U.S. bishops and Catholic for the people of Japan following the March 11 earthquake.

"In his March 14 letter to Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga, SJ, of Osaka, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, Archbishop Dolan said the 'estimates of suffering, loss of life and physical damage challenge our ability to grasp the reality of such an event.'

"Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the humanitarian agency of the U.S. bishops, is responding to the tragedy and receiving donations, said Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, chairman of the CRS board.

" 'These will be used for the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and support the local Catholic Church in its on-going mission,' said Bishop Kicanas. Catholics interested in supporting the work of CRS can visit:

"The full text of Archbishop Dolan's letter follows:

"Dear Archbishop Ikenaga,

"I write today conscious of the terrible earthquake that has struck Japan. The first news reports of the preliminary estimates of suffering, loss of life and physical damage challenge our ability to grasp the reality of such a massive event.

My letter is to make a first contact with you to assure you of the prayers and solidarity of the bishops and faithful in the United States at this difficult moment. We commend the Church and the people of Japan to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, asking her to care for all of those left in conditions of suffering because of the quake and the aftershocks.

"I know that our Catholic Relief Services has already been in touch with Caritas in Japan. They are already studying the situation with the goal of being as helpful as possible in responding to the tragedy.

"Again, Archbishop Okada, please know of our prayers and solidarity with you at this moment.
"Faithfully in Christ,

"Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
"Archbishop of New York
"President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

"Keywords: Archbishop Timothy Dolan, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, CRS, Japan, earthquake, bishops, solidarity, prayers, Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga, SJ, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan"

# # # #
That's clear enough.

I'd hoped that there would be a request for help, channeled through parishes: the way we raised money to help Haiti, last year. That didn't happen this morning, so I went looking on the USCCB website, and found that page.

Following the link to CRS / Catholic Relief Services, and nosing around a bit, I found this:
"CRS Ready to Respond to Devastation in Japan"
Catholic Relief Services

"Catholic Relief Services is working with Caritas International and others to find pathways to bring aid to the many thousands stricken by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan.

" 'The people of Japan who have suffered this tragedy are our brothers and sisters,' Sean Callahan, vice president of overseas operations said. 'Though it is too early to know the exact details of how we will help, we know that it is our mission to aid them in this time of need. As our mission is to serve the world's most poor and vulnerable people, CRS does not normally have a program in Japan. But, just as we did after the Kobe Earthquake in 1995, we will find appropriate partners for the expression of generosity by Catholics in the United States and others of goodwill.'

" 'CRS has determined there was minimal damage from the tsunami in countries where we have programs - such as the Philippines and Indonesia,' said Callahan. 'Our focus now is on the people of Japan.' "
CRS had a big red button with "DONATE" on it, a few hours ago - not easy to miss. That led me to some options for transferring funds. I chose one, and now my household has added a bit to the financial support for CRS relief to Japan.

Under normal circumstances, Japan isn't the sort of nation that I think of as being able to use help. But these aren't normal circumstances.

Related posts:
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therese rita said...

I was thinking along the same lines this weekend:

Since I was born in Minneapolis, I can only assume "great minds.."!

Brian Gill said...

therese rita,

:) Thanks!

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