Charleston, W. Va. — Heavy storms dumped more than nine inches of rain in much of West Virginia last week, with the resulting floods killing at least 25 people and damaging or destroying thousands of homes and businesses.
It’s the worst flooding the state has seen in at least three decades. A federal disaster has been declared in three of the hardest-hit counties, while a state of emergency has been declared in 44 of the state’s 55 counties due to the floods.
Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the only Catholic diocese in the state, offered Mass on Sunday for the victims of the flood and released a statement calling for prayers.
“We pray for those affected by this natural disaster, including those who have lost their homes and livelihoods; those who do not have electricity, food or clean water; and, most importantly, for those who are injured and have lost loved ones,” Bishop Bransfield said. “Let us prayerfully remember those who died.”
“As floodwaters rise and recede, I ask you to please join me in praying for the protection of the brave men and women who are working to bring relief to our neighbors,” he added.
Patti Phillips, director of development and marketing for Catholic Charities in West Virginia, told CNA that Catholic Charities is partnering with Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters in cleanup and relief efforts.
The most-needed items right now include rubber boots, gloves, rakes and other items that can help with cleanup, Phillips said.
And while immediate help is needed, Phillips said it’s also important to remember that the process of rebuilding will be ongoing for the next several months.
“We have this immediate response where people want to come and help, and that’s beautiful,” she said.
“But if people give a thought to the time they may be able to offer in the coming months, with a church group or parish group, they can contact us,” she said.
“We have a work-camp program, and many of our work camps end up working on disaster-affected areas and homes.”
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered his prayers and support to the people of West Virginia in a letter to Bishop Bransfield.
“Once again, the suffering of so many calls us closer to the cross of Christ,” he said in the letter. “I entrust those who have died to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and pray all those affected will find strength for the recovery.”
Archbishop Kurtz also expressed his gratitude for the generosity of the Church and for Bishop Bransfield’s witness in a time of tragedy.
He said, “Amid the widespread pain we witnessed after the violence in Orlando and, now, the natural disaster in West Virginia, we also see how such events can draw us closer together as brothers and sisters in need of each other’s assistance.”
For more information on donating to the relief efforts through Catholic Charities, visit: CatholicCharitiesWV.org.