The congregation in the Church of Vincent de Paul light candles at the Nov 17 Mass.

St Vincent de Paul Church holds special Mass as Filipinos mobilise to help countrymen. Darren Boon reports

Parishes across Singapore prayed for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and collected funds and material aid to send to the survivors of one of the worst storms in the Philippines.

“Every one of us is a brother and sister in God’s name,” Fr Michael Sitaram told the 1,000-strong crowd gathered at the Church of St Vincent de Paul on Nov 17 for a special Mass to pray for the victims.

“The Mass calls us today to pray for our brothers and sisters, to be with them in prayer,” said Fr Sitaram, the parish priest.

“As we receive the Body and Blood in Christ, we are one in them. We are one in their pain and in their sorrow.”

Philippine ambassador Minda Calaguian-Cruz and labour attache Vicente M Cabe were among those who attended the afternoon Mass celebrated in Tagalog and English.

In his homily in English, Fr Sitaram expressed hope that typhoon victims would be “touched…by God’s grace” and for food, water and medical supplies to reach them quickly.

He noted that even if one is unable to be at the disaster site to help, one can still give financial and material aid.

The money offering during the Mass was channelled to the Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) to aid the victims.

Towards the end of the Mass, Filipina Jaren Loyola, shared her agony upon hearing unconfirmed reports that her mother and brother had died in the disaster.

“My only prayer was ‘Lord, please no!’” I didn’t ask ‘why?’ My question then was ‘how?’. How will my father live alone? How are we going to celebrate Christmas?”

Many in the congregation could be seen weeping as she shared. However, the mood turned to one of joy as Loyola said she later found out that her family members were safe.

Prayer and a supportive Filipino community were what gave her strength during this difficult period, she said.

Meanwhile, Filipino Catholics across Singapore have been busy raising funds for their countrymen and collecting food and clothing even as churches prayed for the victims at Masses.

At the Church of St Vincent de Paul, requests were made for canned food, biscuits, bottled water, hygiene kits, medicines and blankets over the Nov 16-17 weekend.

Ms Lyianne Oraya told CatholicNews she donated some food and clothing, and also sent money to relief groups back home in the Philippines.

Mr Donald Villamero, from the Singles for Christ group, helped organise a fundraising concert at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre on Nov 16.

The Filipino, who attended the Nov 17 Mass at the Church of St Vincent de Paul, said proceeds will go to ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor), a Couples for Christ ministry that works with the poor.

He expressed hope that monetary donations will continue to pour in even after adequate material aid has been received as many would have lost their livelihoods in the calamity.

Mr Villamero said he knows of other Singles for Christ members whose relatives and friends have died in the disaster. He said they are not coping well and are unable to return home even if they wanted to.

They can only remain in Singapore and rely on moral support from members of the community, he added.

At the Church of Divine Mercy, the parish’s Filipino community along with Couples for Christ organised a bazaar sale and carolling session to raise funds.

The money would be channelled to ANCOP.

Mr Rizaldy Sapiera, speaking on behalf of ANCOP and the parish’s Filipino community, praised parishioners for their generosity. “It was really very touching,” he said.

A Filipino community from the Church of the Risen Christ also collected monetary donations from members over the Nov 16-17 weekend. Another round of fundraising is scheduled for the Nov 23-24 weekend.

Meanwhile, the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea has collected three truckloads of clothes, food items and medicines, as well as monetary donations.

Mr Elmer Del Rosario, a member of the Filipino community in the parish, said they are touched by the generosity of parishioners and happy to work with them in packing the relief items.

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