You are already aware that, on 19 September 2017, the island, Dominica, where Presentation Sisters from Newfoundland and Labrador have been in ministry for twenty-five years was ravaged by Category 5 Hurricane Maria, creating even greater needs than before.
I accompanied Marie Roche, pbvm and Jean O'Neill, Associate when they returned to ministry in Dominica in January 2018. While there, I witnessed the total destruction of so many buildings throughout the entire island. This will require a rebuilding process over several years. I met with Bishop Gabriel Malzaire and Diocesan engineer, Mr Bernard Lauwyck who showed in pictures and in words the magnitude of the damage to most of the church properties. I visited Mrs. Olivia Douglas, Director of the Centre Where Adolescents Learn to Love and Serve (CALLS) and met with the Board of Directors of CALLS. That building, also Diocesan owned, is badly damaged. Yet the program for disadvantaged youth continues on a severely curtailed basis.
When I returned to Newfoundland on 5 February, my feelings were bittersweet. Yes, I observed devastation. I witnessed the destruction of infrastructure. I was acutely aware of the hazards of driving on the roads. I saw the ruination of all agricultural initiatives and the facilities for eco-tourism so damaged. I noticed the blue plastic covering the roofs of most buildings to keep out the ever-present rain and wind. Yes, I felt deeply the cries of the land and her suffering people. Yet, I did not return depressed by it all because signs of new life abound. The trees and vegetation are growing again and, in time, the Nature Island of the Caribbean will regain its original beauty. The birds, though not so many now, are singing again. The iguanas, an endangered species, survived the storm. And, the people are still smiling.
I witnessed on this visit as I had so often in my seven years of ministry in Dominica the indomitable spirit of a resilient, faith-filled people who have always found what they need to overcome severe obstacles. Not unlike our own ancestors! I am humbled and grateful to have been part of their lives and I am honoured now to continue to support 'from a distance'.
We are appreciative of those who have assisted with our Hurricane Relief efforts. We will ensure that the money gets to Dominica and that it will be used to help wherever the need is greatest.