More than $592,000 collected for Sandy relief

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Money aiding communities in New York and New Jersey

William Cone

When Bishop David Zubik called for a special diocesan-wide collection to aid Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, the losses from the storm were still being tallied. But that didn't lessen the generosity of local Catholics who viewed the devastation along the East Coast on television and in newspapers.

With a few parishes not yet reporting, the collection -- which most parishes took up during Masses Nov. 10-11 -- has brought in more than $592,000. The money is being funneled through Catholic Charities USA to help the hardest-hit communities in New York and New Jersey.

"We have seen the news coverage of the devastation wrought from the wind, rain and flooding of Hurricane Sandy," said Bishop Zubik's letter published in the Pittsburgh Catholic's Nov. 9 issue. "The east coast of our nation has been dramatically altered by this disaster. The magnitude of this storm, first of all in human lives and secondly in material damage, is unfathomable.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the faithful of our diocese will respond with extraordinary generosity to the staggering needs of our sisters and brothers," he wrote.

Hurricane Sandy, which quickly became a super storm, wreaked havoc on the eastern United States, killing 125 people in the U.S. after causing more than 70 deaths in the Caribbean.

According to a report from The Associated Press, the storm caused about $62 billion in damage and other losses in the U.S. -- primarily in New York and New Jersey -- making it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 which caused $128 billion in damage.

After Sandy made landfall Oct. 29 in New Jersey, that state as well as New York City, and the New York boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island were among the areas affected the most. The storm surge reached 14 feet in some places, leaving millions without power.

Sister Joanne Dress, a Daughter of Charity and diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services in the Trenton, N.J., Diocese, said after Sandy the focus was on immediate needs, but weeks afterward the long-term needs were being addressed through the network already in place in parishes and other Catholic agencies throughout the region.

"With many St. Vincent de Paul Society conferences and parish social concerns groups, we already have the framework and the process in place to help address the needs of residents in the impacted areas as they try to get back on their feet," she said.

"People are going to need everything as they work to re-establish their homes. We can't rebuild their homes, but we certainly can help them with some of the many things they will need to rebuild their lives."

Within days after the storm, the Trenton Diocese moved quickly to establish "drop-off and distribution centers" in a handful of parishes where people in need could access emergency provisions. However, the generosity of donations and the inordinate number of people seeking assistance prompted the diocese to expand its outreach to 26 designated locations.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that when he visited communities in the hurricane-ravaged areas he not only heard stories of pain and destruction caused by the storm but witnessed "the overwhelming goodness of people in helping those in need."

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.