As wildfires rage across California, scorching more than 700,000 acres of land in multiple dioceses and killing at least four people, Catholics are asking for prayers and offering resources to the displaced.
“In our diocese alone the CZU, River, Carmel Valley and Dolan fires have already caused profound damage to property, persons and the environment,” Bishop Daniel Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey said in a message to Catholics on Thursday, Aug. 20.
“Hundreds of people have already fled their homes fearful of the unknown. Likewise, several of our parish sites have been evacuated due to the close proximity of the fires,” he added.
Over the past several days, a heat wave coupled with excessive lightning strikes sparked most of the blazes now raging in the state. At least 60,000 people in the state have evacuated their homes to escape the path of the blazes. Two of the fires, the SCU Lightning Complex fire located to the east of San Jose, and the LNU Lightning Complex, located to the northeast of San Francisco, have already burned roughly 220,000 acres each, placing them in the top 10 fires ever recorded in the state, CNN reported.
“Although it may not be clear to us, it is at times like these that we are called to not lose sight that the Lord is with us even amidst the uncertainty of the moment,” Bishop Garcia said in his message. “You and I are called to come together as the Body of Christ, to pray for each other, even if we cannot physically gather in each other’s presence.”
Erika Yanez, director of media relations with the Diocese of Monterey, told CNA that a number of their parishes had already been evacuated.
“All of Dalton, Boulder Creek, Davenport,…the entire community of Scotts Valley has been evacuated,” she said. “There’s a huge portion of Carmel Valley that’s been evacuated, we have a parish there.”
A photo of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic parish in Davenport, taken by a community member, shows the air around the church glowing bright orange as the flames encroached.
Yanez said there is a retreat center in San Juan Bautista, Calif., that has opened up to shelter families, though in a slightly restricted way, because of COVID-19, and that the diocese will be coordinating with Catholic Charities to offer further assistance.
“I just wanted to make sure that everyone knows that our prayers are with the families that are being impacted right now. It’s just so difficult,” Yanez said.
Read more at National Catholic Register