11 February 2009

Pray for victims of bushfires in Victoria

St Mary's Catholic Church, Kinglake, Victoria

Today I had an email from an English Columban based in our Australian headquarters in Essendon, just outside of Melbourne. He wrote, ‘Yes, the bushfires have left everyone in shock here and the stories that are unfolding of the biggest natural disaster to befall this country are heartbreaking. I have done appeals in the areas greatly affected and Marysville is (was) the loveliest little town you could imagine.’

The Daily Telegraph, London, reported today: In the town of Marysville, which has a population of 519, it is believed one in five residents died when the Black Saturday fires passed through. Police are preventing residents from returning to the town because they say it will be too traumatic.

CathNews reports : Among many churches hit by Saturday's Victorian fires, the Catholic churches at Kinglake and Marysville were destroyed.

Melbourne Archdiocese Vicar-General Les Tomlinson said there would be no services at Marysville any time soon.

"There's nowhere to have it, and probably no people there to gather," Monsignor Tomlinson told The Age.

Fr Julian Langridge, parish priest at Lilydale, Healesville, Marysville, Dixons Creek, Yarra Glen and Toolangi, said so far he had been able to contact only one of about 25 Marysville parishioners.

ABC has a video showing the destruction of Marysville.

I have done appeals in Britain, Ireland and the USA for the missionary work of the Columbans and hope to do so later in the year in Victoria, Australia. I know well the generosity of ordinary people in those countries in supporting not only Columbans but many other missionary groups. And listening to Radio Australia today and checking out news websites there I was struck by the extraordinary and creative generosity of the people of that country and of their initiative. One musician, Emma Ayres, who presents Classic Breakfast on ABC Classic FM from Monday to Friday – a programme well worth listening to – told today of how she and some others had raised Aus$2,500, I think, by busking, playing classical music on the street. She mentioned a number of other classical musicians who were doing the same. She also read an email from someone who had lost everything and who found being able to listen to classical music after all the destruction brought her some peace.

Please pray for the people of Victoria. As a Columban missionary I owe so many of them so much for supporting our work down the years.

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