The Catholic University of America

Nov. 13, 2013 

CUA Reaches Out to Typhoon-Ravaged Philippines

Led by the Filipino Organization of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), a response of service, prayer, and donation is already underway at CUA for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines on Nov. 8.

A special Mass is planned for today, Nov. 13, at 5:10 p.m. in Caldwell Chapel. The Mass being planned by Campus Ministry and FOCUS will include prayers for the people of the Philippines and for the family and friends of University students who were directly affected. The Mass will be followed by the recitation of the rosary in Tagalog, a native language of the Filipino people.

“We share a love of our culture and enjoy sharing it with the community,” says Ashley Ahlfeld, a senior education major who is president of FOCUS. “Many of our members have family in the Philippines and some live in areas that were affected by the storm. The Philippine culture is very family oriented. Your family is my family. We may not live there, but we still consider the Philippines our home and it only felt right to try to help,” says Ahlfeld about the relief events that are underway.

FOCUS will host a bake sale Nov. 14, 15, 18, and 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. All proceeds will go to the Philippine Red Cross. The group will also distribute awareness ribbons made by FOCUS members.

Jackie Ecle, a junior general-choral music education major and FOCUS member, will perform a recital to benefit typhoon victims on Saturday, Nov. 16, at noon at St. Vincent de Paul Chapel. The soprano will sing works by Debussy, Obradors, Spohr, Copland, and others, with pianist Sophia Pileggi and clarinetist Michelangelo Romano accompanying. Part of the freewill offering at the concert will be sent to Catholic Relief Services to support those affected by the typhoon.

Ecle, who was born in the Philippines, says, “My heart aches. Filipinos have their hopes up and their spirits strong and from them I draw strength. I hope that my dedicating my recital to them raises awareness that no matter where we are, we are all called to serve God with our unique gifts and bring value to other people’s lives.”

André de la Paz, vice president of FOCUS and a junior nursing major, has family who were in the direct path of the typhoon. “Although a majority of my family is from the metro Manila area, I have family and friends who live in the town of Tacloban, which was one of the hardest hit areas,” says de la Paz.

“Since I am a first-generation Filipino, I'm still very strongly connected to the Philippines. I have heard from one relative that her family members are safe but the conditions are unbearable. Little to nothing was spared of the town ravaged by such strong natural forces. There are bodies lying on the street — sometimes in piles. It is an area of need. Need for food, medical attention, spirituality and comfort, hope, and more,” says de la Paz.

FOCUS is also involved in a joint affiliation with the Philippine American Foundation for Charities and the Philippine embassy to host the annual Paskong Pinoy Christmas Concert held at the American Legion Post 176 in Springfield, Va., on Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. All the proceeds from the concert will go to those who were affected in the Philippines.

CUA has also updated, a website dedicated to disaster response. The website offers information on prayers for the devastated area and opportunities to help in assistance efforts including information on fundraisers, and links to charity organizations such as Catholic Relief Services.

“The Filipino spirit is very strong. No matter what happens we come together as a community to pull each other back up,” says Ahlfeld. “We are grateful for the support coming from the CUA community.”  


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