From the Pastor: Survivors of the Storm
If you are reading this I can make the assumption that you are a fellow survivor of the storm. Which storm? The one that, according to news reports ahead of time, was to prove that global warming, global cooling, and/or climate change were all man-made evils that were going to destroy the world. That was before they realized that it was not going to grow into a level 8 himicane (they/he/she/it felt too masculine to be called a “her”icane). I had gotten a few “disaster” type news articles coming in on my phone when the storm first formed but I didn’t pay much attention to it. That changed when I started getting emergency messages from the Diocese. Emergency messages came via my church email, my personal email, and my cell phone. On the cell phone I received both phone recordings and text messages. I was told/shown emergency contact information for all of the “big” players in the diocese. I was told/shown corrected emergency contact information after the first set of information proved to contain old numbers or personnel who no longer worked for the diocese. All of that showed that our emergency network was working well enough to reach me but it also made me think that a really big storm must be on the way. I got reminder messages about how to secure the church, the office, the documents of the parish, and the grounds. I was reminded to give the staff swimming lessons and “Jesus loves you” floaties to keep them safe. (I made up that last one just to see if you are paying attention.) I dusted off the old TV set and turned on Bray News 9 to see the weather report. I figured there must be a bad storm brewing and I needed to see when to batten down the hatches. Of course, I had to wait through 7 minutes of commercials before the weather man/girl/woman/thing (these new trans words make it hard to know what to call people these days) came on with a very generic report about it being hot with a chance of rain in the afternoon (no kidding, people get paid to tell us that!) and that the tropical storm update would come later. So much for a weather update about the most killer storm of all time! So I waited. And fell asleep before the next commercial finished. I woke only to have to sit through two more 9 minute periods of commercials in order to finally hear that a tropical storm was coming and that the British model said it would fall apart over the mountains of Cuba but the American model showed it missing the mountains and continuing to build strength once it got over water again and would affect Tampa soon afterwards. Rain squalls would begin Monday morning and continue to increase. The eye of the storm would hit late Tuesday, maybe as a category 1 hurricane, and give us storms all day Wednesday. But get this: for the first time in my recent memory they said it would not be a major issue for us even though it was expected to come directly over us! No gloom! No despair! No agony on me! No deep dark, depression, excessive misery... (come to think of it, recent years’ storm reports seem to have been plagiarizing Hee Haw). No, calmly they said that we could expect a storm surge of only one to three feet, 2-4 inches of rain, and some strong winds. I was shocked. It was a storm report that could have been taken from my childhood years when they told the truth instead of engaging in sensationalism.
Even so, I prepared for a storm by bringing an umbrella to Mass Monday morning. (Lotza preparation!) I didn’t need it. I was supposed to do a house blessing in Lakeland on Tuesday. I spoke with the parishioners and we agreed that if the storm got bad, we would reschedule. I would know how bad the storm was by their presence or absence at the 8:00 Mass. If it was safe for them to come to Mass, it was safe for me to go bless their house. Of course, with zero storm winds or rain, they showed up on Tuesday. I still didn’t need the umbrella, which was a good thing, since I had left it at the church the day before! Once in Lakeland, with good driving weather all the way there, we had time for lunch and a house blessing and a bunch of story-telling before a squall came. Heavy rain, strong winds, and I knew it was time to leave. By the time my doggie bag was packed, it had passed. I had no more inclement weather the whole drive back. We had no heavy rain the rest of the day and no indication of heavy rain overnight. If there was a nighttime storm, it wasn’t bad enough to wake me up. Wednesday was about the same, with a few light sprinkles but not even our typical afternoon thunderstorm.
I received more text messages, automated phone calls, and emails from the Diocese asking me to “press 1 if everyone is safe.. press 2 if you need assistance...” and even a real phone call from a real monsignor asking about my well-being and the condition of the property. I am really not sure how I survived this terrible man-made disaster, but I did. And somehow you did, too! I would thank God, but everyone knows that He only gets blame for bad things, not credit for the good...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka