Vanuatu Struck by Cyclone Harold

Source: Saint Anthony’s Priory

A Newsletter from Fr. de Clausonne concerning New Caledonia & Vanuatu

April 19, 2020

Dear Faithful, benefactors and friends of our missions in the Pacific,

From New Caledonia allow me to give you some news of the Pacific missions during this special time due to the pandemic, that made most of you live a Holy Week cut from your parishes, but certainly not from the fervour of your hearts. All is working in the good of those who love God and persevere in his love. 

In New Caledonia, only a few cases of the virus are reported as they shut down the planes quite early and abruptly in order to contain it. As for myself I arrived on the Island the very day they shut the airport, on the very last plane from New Zealand that was authorised to land, and I had to undergo a quarantine of 14 days, of which I spent 5 days in a hotel before I could reach the Chapel. During this « retreat » I could say Holy Mass every day thanks to my Mass kit. Unfortunately the faithful couldn’t attend, eventually, the Holy Week and Easter, though it was at first hoped, but all the ceremonies were celebrated in union with the faithful, to whom we were able to provide spiritual help during the whole course like elsewhere. As we now are under a temporary relax on the lockdown, before hopefully a complete return to normal, I am saying Holy Mass in the homes of the faithful every day, bringing the Lord and his peace, little by little to each family among our faithful, a little bit like the apparitions of Our Lord after his resurrection, coming to his disciples all doors locked!

In Vanuatu, which has been for now spared from the virus, the country has nevertheless been through its own Good Friday, and the news is not good. I know many among you have been supporting this mission, and some of you have even been there, to help these poor people, and to build their chapel. During the Holy Week, a very strong cyclone devastated the northern island called Espiritu Santo, and in fact the cyclone went right above Vunapisu, the village where we have our mission. It was difficult to have a clear picture of the damages since the communications were cut for several days afterwards, but I could reach eventually the faithful over there as to comfort them and receive an update. Thanks be to God they are all alive, even though they are quite shocked still after the disaster, they told me they never experienced in their whole life such a strong cyclone, and feared their last day had come. Indeed all their houses were swept by the strong winds, the parish hall also, even the Chapel has been seriously damaged. The rivers overflowed, the sea was unleashed and trees fell down, even the coco trees that are known to support strong winds were either down or left like naked picks on a desolated land. At the moment the people are trying to survive, collecting pieces of wreck here and there to shelter and are waiting for the bag of rice per family that was promised to them by the humanitarian’s aid, which hasn’t been able to reach their very remote place yet.

Please keep them in your prayers, on a first step to show them we do not abandon them during this trial, I am studying the way to send through some money, via Luganville, in order for them at least to buy some food and tools and materials to build back their homes. And I would appreciate very much your alms on this work of mercy, even if I am aware you all suffer from the economic consequences of the lockdown. But I believe these people are suffering more than we do on many aspects.

As for second steps, I will have to go there as soon as I can, of course to give them the Holy Mass and the sacraments, and also to see for myself what can be done to help them more. But the planes haven’t been re-opened yet due to the restrictions, and quarantines might be enforced still for a while. Maybe the links between the islands will be re-opened sooner than elsewhere, providentially I am not too far from them, by the mercy of God. 

For now, unfortunately I haven’t got any pictures to give you, true a picture is worth many words, but those who have been there can understand why it is difficult to get, the people live in the bush, there is no electricity, no water except what they collect from the rain, no computers, no internet or only bad network and only at a few places, and not even good communications, with low cost phones anyway. My last mission there was in February and I enclose a few pictures from there, before the cyclone. A picture of a marriage, of a baptism, of a distribution of clothes given by the faithful from New Caledonia, a distribution of hygienic towels for girls fabricated by the faithful of New Zealand, some work on the parish hall last February, which has been completely destroyed.

May God bless you all for your prayers for these missions, and for your generosity, rest assured of my prayers in return, we know God remains the Master and will make everything turn to his glory.

Father de Clausonne+


Update from John Stella - 22 April, 2020

I managed to get information from Halili (Rob Stephen's brother) and his family and some photos of the damage and destruction done to Vunapisu and the mission station due to Cyclone Harold last week. I am deeply saddened but grateful that all the many faithful there are safe and there was no loss of life. 

Cyclone Harold grew into a category 5 cyclone and made landfall at Tasiriki village in the west which is at the end of the long winding dirt road that passes Vunapisu. It was very badly damaged. The cyclone then moved slightly south east and the epicentre of it hit Vunapisu, Tasmalum, Araki, Aore and most of Luganville town and outskirts including airport area and big sea near million dollar point area. About 45 to 50 percent of the houses were damaged or destroyed in the whole area of Santo/Sanma  province. 

Vunapisu was severely hit and as per Halili Stephen's report only the concrete block house of Sampson still stands in the village of Vunapisu. The rest of the humble little houses are blown down and destroyed. Also according to Halili, who crawled over and under fallen palm trees in the plantation walking  from Tasmalum, the church is very badly damaged and the church hall is gone.  Please see the photos below that Halili sent me.

Many of you will remember Fr Bochkoltz standing with us on the hilltop overlooking Tasmalum about 2 and a half years ago. We took a lovely group photo and I turned to Fr Bochkoltz and told him of my dream to build a priests lodge or recovery house. Well, I still believe in my dream. First with your help, I will try build stronger houses for the faithful there who continue to increase. Then, the Church and then a church hall. The future priest/guest house  in Tasmalum will be built out of containers that I am planning (if fund are available) to buy and then be converted into a strong house for priests and any visitors from around the world. There are so many people who have seen the videos of St Raphael church and FSSPX mission and would gladly pay to stay in the lodge and thereby help the FSSPX fund the mission, as well as fund more priests who would be able to offer Holy Mass and give the sacraments, etc. There are many young and elderly priests who would love to go over to assist in rebuilding and see it grow.

Shortly after the last General Chapter in Econe, I met with the new Superior General in South Africa and shared my stories about FSSPX mission work and the humanitarian side of it as well. He thanked me and encouraged me to continue and I gave him, Bishop Fellay and Fr Nely usb sticks with photos and videos of the Vanautu mission as well as the mission in Lesotho in Africa.

I must end now as I have been working since shortly after 4 am this morning and it is now 11:11 pm here. if you would like to help as mentioned above let me know. I am sure in and few weeks from now the news of the mission station will find its way into the FSSPX news and media. I cannot share all photos tonight but if you want to see them I will send directly via email, including any I receive in the next few days from Chief Havo and Wan and family. 

I hope to hear from all of you soon.  We may not have been in contact for a year or more since our last mission but be assured I keep you all in my daily prayers, and evening rosary. Together and with the help of Almighty God and our Heavenly Mother, I am sure we will all one day be able to say what Fr Bochkoltz always used to say:  "We do all things for the greater glory of God!"  Watch the beautiful video again that Michael Kearney and others put together. It will take you back and you will hear Fr Bochkoltz say those words.

Okie dokie everyone, I must call it a day.  May Almighty God bless you and all, and may our Blessed Mother spread her maternal mantle of love, guidance and protection over you and all loved ones. 

God bless,

John Stella


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