Tragedy Pulls Out the Best of Us

Around noon on Saturday February 9, 2018, the head catechist of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, a SVD-run parish in the city of Moundou, Chad Republic, ran to our office breathless and shaking. Fr. Gilbert Paga Buu, SVD and I asked him what was going on and his response saddened our hearts. A young couple from our parish has just lost all their four children in a fire and they needed a priest to bury the deceased. We then calmed him down to get further details about this terrible news. He told us that the four kids, all under 10 years of age, were alone in the house cooking. Nobody knew how the fire caught the straw roof. By the time, the neighbors saw the house engulfed in flame, it was too late. Our four precious children were burned.

Fr. Gilbert then rushed to the house and ministered to the young couple. It wasn’t easy since everyone was devastated, especially the parents. A quick burial was planned and Fr. Gilbert presided the funeral mass.


Prayers were said, condolences were exchanged in the spirit of solidarity enveloped by a terrible sadness. As the young couple has lost “everything” in the fire, the parishioners got together and decided to raise funds for them to rebuild their lives. As soon as the initial fundraising was announced, money started coming in various shapes and forms. Some gave bricks. Others gave cements. Still others donated steel and woods. Still others volunteered their labor. JPIC coordinator of Chad Mission also mobilized our resources to give a helping hand. Everything was quickly collected and the reconstruction of a new house was right away initiated. Just in a few weeks, the new house was completed thanks to the generosity of many parishioners, the SVD communities in Chad and private donors.

The new house, on the surface level, gives signal to a new beginning much needed for this young couple. On a deeper level, it signifies and testifies to the collective effort of Christian love and solidarity. It gives witness to the ever living word of our Savior especially in times of terrible trials and difficulty, “love one another as I have love you” (John 3, 16). Really, “the Joy, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of these who are poor and afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Gaudium et Spes). However, our works as pastors and ministers continue. This young couple needs more than just a house “en brics.” New life doesn’t start with the new house. It starts with forgiveness, with solidarity, with love, with consoling resolution of what has happened. It needs healing and hope, that which only comes from the resurrected Christ. Looking toward Easter, toward the empty tomb, and toward the Easter proclamation of Christ’s disciples in these last weeks of Lent gives us new vision and courage, new direction and zeal in the midst of tragedy.

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