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Charities team returns from fact-finding mission to Bahamas

Nassau archbishop to receive, redirect material aid shipped directly from South Florida

Nassau Archbishop Patrick Pinder, far left, meets with Msgr. Roberto Garza and Peter Routsis-Arroyo, front right, of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami in Nassau Sept. 17.  With them, right rear, is Marco Greenslade, Catholic Charities' director of Finance, who was born and raised in the Bahamas.

Photographer: COURTESY | Paula Strachan-Reckle

Nassau Archbishop Patrick Pinder, far left, meets with Msgr. Roberto Garza and Peter Routsis-Arroyo, front right, of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami in Nassau Sept. 17. With them, right rear, is Marco Greenslade, Catholic Charities' director of Finance, who was born and raised in the Bahamas.

MIAMI |Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami will ship targeted emergency goods and humanitarian relief to the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas through a temporary partnership with the Archdiocese of Nassau. 

Fresh from a fact-finding mission to Nassau Sept. 16-17, Peter Routsis-Arroyo, director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, said Sept. 18 that Nassau Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder agreed that specific material assistance be shipped to both Freeport in Grand Bahama and to Nassau. There it will be used to meet the needs of emerging evacuee shelters as well as shipped to the hard-hit Abaco Island as that becomes more feasible.

The effort will be supported by the special collection taken up in Miami archdiocese parishes following category 5 Hurricane Dorian’s prolonged landfall in the Bahamas Sept. 1-3. South Florida-based Cross Catholic Outreach will facilitate most of the shipping at this time, according to Routsis-Arroyo.

He traveled to Nassau with Msgr. Roberto Garza, who chairs the board of directors of Catholic Charities, and Marco Greenslade, Catholic Charities’ director of Finance, a native of the Bahamas and who reportedly lost an uncle during the hurricane. 

Personal hygiene kids, emergency meals and power generators are among the first items to be shipped as early as this weekend. 

“Our collection frees us up to ship supplies and help Archbishop Pinder make some strategic decisions,” Routsis-Arroyo said, adding that he planned to invite the six other Catholic Charities agencies in Florida to join the effort. 

Meanwhile, a multifaceted Church-sponsored relief effort is just getting underway in the Bahamas — with support from Caritas International, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA, which Routsis-Arroyo said also has provided some grant money in support of temporary evacuees to Florida. 

He described the three-hour meeting with Archbishop Pinder as a welcome relief to the archbishop’s dizzying post-Dorian schedule. He had recently seen via helicopter the damage in both Abaco and Grand Bahama. 

The Nassau Archdiocese reports that it has lost at least two Catholic schools and one parish as a result of Dorian, while tens of thousands have been displaced or lost their homes. The official death toll stands at over 50 with hundreds or more still officially listed as missing. 

“He was so happy to see us. We just sat down and talked out some strategy going forward, and I think it was what he was looking for and needed,” Routsis-Arroyo said, adding that even under ordinary circumstances, Archbishop Pinder operates with far less Church infrastructure and support than would be the norm in Florida. 

Among Archbishop Pinder’s growing concerns is how to provide material aid and counseling to the many displaced persons in shelters and ad hoc housing around Nassau; how to assist Catholic school faculty and students; and how to create effective points of aid distribution and shelter facilities. 

The parish of St. Francis de Sales in Abaco was shaping up to be a critical distribution point, Routsis-Arroyo said, while Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Grand Bahama is a key point of contact in that area. 

“There is no water, no electricity in Abaco and still a big fear that there was a large Haitian community which perished there during the storm. Eventually Abaco will need a workforce to help it rebuild,” Routsis-Arroyo said. 

“It may change over time but Archbishop Pinder gave us a new list of what he sees as those needs for now and we will purchase in bulk a lot of what he needs and work with Cross Catholic for the shipping.”

He added that individual parishes and entities within the archdiocese have arranged their own shipments of aid, including Radio Paz and St. Joachim Parishin Miami, where Msgr. Garza is pastor. 

“I think it was helpful for him to sit and think it through with some others from the outside,” Routsis-Arroyo said of his meeting with Archbishop Pinder. 

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