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Prayer, supplies and conversation mark bishop’s pastoral visit to Lumberton, Red Springs


Water still stands. And -- more than a week later -- thousands continue to experience the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh is working with regional offices, priests, the Knights of Columbus, diocesan leaders and other partners to offer support and relief to victims in eastern North Carolina.

On Monday, Oct. 17, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge visited some of the most severely impacted areas with members of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh team. Shane Nolan, interim executive director, Daniel Altenau, director of Disaster Services, and Consuelo Kwée, director of Immigration Services, traveled with the bishop.

Equipped with donated items from Catholic Center employees and supplies from the Catholic Charities Fayetteville Regional Office, the group visited St. Frances De Sales Parish in Lumberton early in the day. Local volunteers and members of the Knights of Columbus were collecting and distributing donated supplies.

“‘Thank you for being with us,’ we heard over and over from families impacted by the storm,” Mrs. Kwée said.

At St. Francis De Sales, families were able to choose from a selection of donated clothing items and receive a warm meal. Bishop Burbidge listened to families share what they had been through and the condition of their damaged homes. 

While in Lumberton, Bishop Burbidge visited a relief shelter to meet with displaced families whose homes were flooded. He prayed with victims and volunteers.

One resident explained how she and her neighbors watched the awful scene of water rising filled with snakes and alligators.

The after effects of Hurricane Matthew devastated Lumberton, where nearly 7 percent of the population experienced home flooding. And Robeson County, where Lumberton is located, is one of North Carolina’s poorest counties with a per capita income of $15,321 a year.

The group also visited St. Andrew Parish in Red Springs, which is about 18 miles northwest of Lumberton. Father Giovanni de Jesus Romero, pastor of that parish, thanked Catholic Charities and the bishop for their support. “The bishop’s presence in these communities of disaster was a blessing to the people affected by the hurricane,” he said. “Families felt heard. The people and myself felt so blessed.”

Bishop Burbidge met with volunteers and witnessed donations for Hurricane Matthew victims. Volunteers also presented him with a photo album that documented the damage of the previous 10 days.  

“Despite their own losses, many have still been able to extend a helping hand to others who have also suffered,” he said.

With the group, Bishop Burbidge traveled to Red Springs’ Ventura neighborhood, where flood waters were still more than a foot deep. The group visited the flooded home of a woman they had met earlier that day. “I have lost everything,” the woman said. “My husband and friends are trying to extract the water, but the pumps they bought are too small.”

“As I travelled today, I am inspired by the faith of those who are carrying this very heavy cross. In the midst of so much suffering, their faith is strong and they know that God is in their midst,” Bishop Burbidge said.

How to Help

Make a monetary donation to the Catholic Charities Disaster Services program, which is currently assisting Hurricane Matthew victims.

Volunteer with the newly formed NC Catholics Volunteer program.

En español: Oración, suministros y conversación marcan la visita pastoral del Obispo a Lumberton, Red Springs