(UPDATE: NZ Catholic understands Fr Devlin is safe and the Wairoa parish and school properties were not impacted by the flooding. The damage was mostly on the other (northern) side of the river.)
As of February 17, Palmerston North diocese had not heard from Fr Rob Devlin, SM, or from St Peter’s parish or St Joseph’s School in the town of Wairoa in northern Hawke’s Bay, which has been hard hit by Cyclone Gabrielle, but the diocese expressed confidence in the local links within the community and the resourcefulness of priests and sisters in Hawkes Bay/Wairoa.
A statement was issued by Palmerston North local administrator Craig Butler on February 17. It reads as follows:
“We know from media reports and the stark images on TV, that Cyclone Gabrielle has caused widespread damage and suffering for many people, including our own people in Wairoa and Hawkes Bay. People are still missing, many people’s homes have been damaged or destroyed, livelihoods are at risk and sadly, others still have lost loved ones.
“Their suffering is very real, they need our help, and we need to show them we care. The first thing we can do is pray for them and for all who are risking their own lives to help them. The government, local government, the military and good people on the ground are working hard, providing immediate relief to those most in need.
“Disruption to ordinary communication has seriously impeded people’s efforts to contact loved ones in the affected areas and all those working hard to bring relief. This has brought a great deal of stress to an already very difficult situation. Across the diocese we are aware of isolated incidents including flooding and fallen trees which have caused property damage.
“Earlier today, I heard from the Marist Fathers and the Mission sisters in Napier that they are safe and sound. We still have no contact with Fr Rob Devlin and the parish and school in Wairoa which, according to the media, seems hardest hit. Speaking to congregational leaders, Fr Tim Duckworth SM and Sr Margaret Monaghan RNDM two things are clear. Our sisters and priests in Hawkes Bay and Wairoa are resourceful and they’re part of communities. Both these things are in their favour.
“As a diocese, we have a responsibility to show we care and right now a small team are working on our practical response. Please find enclosed a prayer resource and a simple Liturgy for classroom prayer and families around the dinner table.
“May our good God continue to bless you and keep all our loved ones safe.”
The prayer resource is:
PRAYER for those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle
God our refuge and hope. We pray for all who are suffering because of recent flooding in our Diocese and in other parts of our country. Give them strength when they’re weak, reason for hope in times of despair and the grace to know you are with them.
Bless the work of emergency and aid workers and keep them safe as they risk their lives for others. Bless too the work of local government and our nation’s leaders. Grant them wisdom in their decision making, and special concern for the poor and vulnerable.
Fill our hearts with compassion for those who are in great need. Open our hearts to see them as brothers and sisters and make us generous in our response.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
The liturgy can be viewed at https://nzcatholic.org.nz/2023/02/17/liturgy-for-those-affected-by-cyclone-gabrielle/
NZ Catholic understands that the Catholic Church in Aoteroa New Zealand is organising a national appeal to assist those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle, and details will be released shortly.
Photo: The Tutaekuri River south of Napier in flood, with the bridge at Waiohiki being washed away: Photo: Shellie Evans Photography.