Father Jason Caganap can no longer look at the horrific pictures. The bodies, the destruction, the despair remain seared into his subconscious. But as a priest serving 2,000 Filipino members of his congregation in Goose Creek, his days are spent trying to offer solace and hope. The world's attention to the recent typhoon has lost its focus. But not for some families in Goose Creek.
This tragedy also is personal for this priest. He just left the Philippines in June after serving four years as a rector in a seminary. He's been the minister at Immaculate Conception Catholic in Goose Creek since then.
Caganap, 37, says many of his fellow priests who are still in that country have spent most of their time since the storm walking through the debris blessing bodies. The number of dead continues to rise and now numbers almost 6,000.
The challenge for Caganap as he rises each day is to put aside his personal feelings of loss and dread and find ways to support his congregants while offering hope.
He's quit uploading news reports on the Internet. No longer will he allow himself to become immersed in viewing places he knows were wiped completely off the map.
He can't watch any more children and wonder what happened to their parents. Those images, though thousands of miles away, still hit home with Father Jason and many other Filipino families here in the Lowcountry.
So how do you cope?
There's something inside humans that compels us to want to help when we see suffering. Most of us willingly offer money. Others hear the need and immediately want to do something.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on St. James Avenue has become ground zero for such an effort. About $15,000 has already been donated and the rectory garage now contains boxes of shoes, clothing and canned goods.
People around Goose Creek and other parts of the Lowcountry also have been generous.
The larger problem now exists in how to get what's been collected to where it is needed. Hopefully, by the first of the year, there will be a solution.
It might be a terrific gesture on the part of Joint Base Charleston to put much of this aid on a big cargo plane headed for that part of the world. Maybe a couple of our politicians could help this cause along?
At the moment, the drive to help has reached an impasse. Father Jason remains hopeful that the heartfelt donations will reach their proper destination after the holidays. The need certainly isn't going to disappear.
Rescue, relief, religion
All is not calm and all is not bright with many Filipino families in the Goose Creek area right now. Father Jason knows many in his congregation who have scaled back their Christmas spending so that contributions can be made to extended family members with much greater needs.
Can one little church in Goose Creek make much of a difference? Maybe, maybe not. But this priest is certain that a lot of little churches pulling in the same direction could definitely help those who now have nothing.
For Father Jason, there are many other questions coming his way right now that demand his attention. Some members of the congregation want to know how God can let this happen?
He's quick to say that he's proud of his parishioners and the faith they've exhibited. A little girl told him recently that "maybe this happened in the Philippines because they were the only ones strong enough to handle it."
Let's not forget about those families both in another country and also in Goose Creek. Let's also add an extra prayer for Father Jason as he tries to deliver uplifting and hopeful homilies to a congregation that's burdened with such personal loss during a time of the year that's normally reserved for happiness and good cheer.
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org.