At least two priests and several sisters are among the ten of thousands of Burmese killed by Cyclone Nargis, a Salesian priest says, with many churches and related projects also badly damaged.
Salesian provincial for Myanmar, Fr Joaquim Ye Maung, added the cyclone also "destroyed not only the roof of Salesian Provincial House in Yangon, but also smashed and washed away much of our income generating Salesian properties," Don Bosco India reports.
Fr Ye Maung said Salesian workers "escaped the fury of Nargis with only what they had on their bare bodies. They literally ran for their dear lives leaving everything behind."
Meanwhile, Burmese priests, sisters and seminarians studying in Rome continue to be anxious about the safety of their parents and relatives. Information about their welfare is not forthcoming as the communication means are not yet in place in those badly affected areas, Don Bosco India says.
Rangoon Archbishop Charles Bo SDB says "the Church is arranging to buy and distribute relief supplies using archdiocesan funds. As much as we can, we will try to help all the people."
"Our immediate needs are food, water and shelter, and thousands are in need of urgent medical help," Archbishop Bo said.
One of the two worst hit areas is territory covered by his archdiocese. The other, the Irrawaddy River delta region, where the cyclone wiped out villages and destroyed rice fields, is covered by Pathein diocese.
"The roofs of the churches were blown off by the cyclone and the regional major seminary is also affected, says Archbishop Bo adding that the beginning of the new seminary year has been postponed from May to July.
The Archdiocese of Yangon has formed an emergency response committee, Myanmar Disaster Relief Committee (MDRC), which includes representatives of the affected population, and parish and donor partners. Assessment teams have been sent to the three affected dioceses of Yangon, Mawlamyine and Pathein dioceses.
In a related story, Cardijn Community International spokesman, Mr M.J. Ruben appealed to the Catholic community to heed Pope Benedict's appeal for assistance for the people of Myanmar.
"Impacts on human survival is often felt long after such natural disasters," Mr Ruben sai.
"The descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and believers on the day of the Pentecost and different tongues speaking symbolised 'solidarity' of the believers."
Salesians in the Forefront of Cyclone Relief (Don Bosco India, 9/5/08)
Cardijn Community International calls for solidarity with the devastated people of Myanmar on 'Pentecost Sunday' (CCI Media Release, 8/5/08)
Cyclone Nargis (Wikipedia)
Catholic Church Myanmar (Wikipedia)