You are no doubt aware of the terrible wildfires that are ripping through a number of areas in Central Washington. Know that Fr. Rogelio Gutiérrez, pastor for our parishes in Chelan and Bridgeport, has been coordinating outreach to families as well as getting items to folks in need. Know, too, that Catholic Charities of Yakima also has been assisting people and that our Catholic Charities president, John Young, has been coordinating with Catholic Charities in Spokane as well as other agencies in the area working with victims of the fire. Monsignor Siler is working with John Young to provide funds from the diocesan portion of our Operation Rice Bowl funds for relief as well.
I have been in touch with Fr. Rogelio through text messaging since audio cell service and land line service have not been working well due to the fire. I encouraged him to buy the necessary supplies he sees as the need arises and told him we would come in behind with financial support so there is no negative impact on the local parish budgets in Chelan and Bridgeport. I know he will be hauling a large amount of bottled water for those in need.
Pastors may have parishioners asking what they can do this coming weekend. Indeed, our parishioners often have a natural desire to give especially, in the face of local human tragedy. Folks often start collecting clothes or food or other items. But I know from my exchanges with Fr. Rogelio – as well as past situations similar to this – that it's often best to provide financial support so local folks can make targeted purchases of items needed. Thus pastors and parish administrators might consider an optional special collection this weekend or next that can augment the efforts of our local parishes in Chelan and Bridgeport as well as our diocesan-wide efforts through Catholic Charities and Operation Rice Bowl. It would be best for the proceeds of the collection to be accounted for at the parish, with a check then sent to the Diocesan Finance Office marked “Wildfire Relief,” per standard practice.
Last and most important, kindly consider including a general intercession this coming weekend for the firefighters who have died, for their families as well as the families displaced by the recent fires. I certainly will be doing this and plan to end my weekend celebrating the Sunday Mass at St. Anne's in Bridgeport as well as touching base personally with Fr. Rogelio.
If you do have questions, John Young is available here at the Pastoral Center and can be reached at 509-965-7100. He can provide thoughtful and well-aimed support for any kind of outreach you and your local parish may be considering. Of course you are free to contact me as well. Monsignor Siler will be away next week but can be contacted by e-mail.
In advance I thank you and your parish leadership for your support of our efforts. Our Catholic Charities has a wonderful mission statement that summarizes the purpose of our outreach: “Motivated by Christ's love, we bring hope to life, especially for those most in need.” May we remember Christ's love in all we are and all we do.
With every best wish and blessing,
Yours in Christ,
+Most Rev. Joseph J. Tyson
Bishop of Yakima