NEW ORLEANS - A local pastor is back from the Philippines after surviving two deadly disasters within a month.
Parishioners at St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Slidell welcomed Fr. Jose Roel Lungay with open arms Sunday morning as he celebrated his first mass since he returned to the U.S.
“On my second day in the island, that's when the earthquake took place. I thought that was the end of the world,” said Father Roel, as he is known in his parish.
Lungay was in his native country when Typhoon Haiyan hit. And he was there when a deadly 7.2 magnitude quake damaged his home a few weeks earlier.
“Just watching children and watching people living outside with nothing,” Lungay said. “They're begging for water and that makes me cry.”
Lungay initially went to the Philippines to find a match for a desperately needed kidney transplant. But after disaster struck, that transplant was postponed indefinitely. And Lungay spent his time helping others instead.
“I told them I hope I can get help from my parish. I'll let them know what took place,” he said.
And here in the U.S., parishioners answered the cal. They collected thousands of dollars in donations and several boxes of items to send to the Philippines.
“The people in my place are just so thankful that the world reached out to them and I want to bring their message to us here and to the world on their behalf,” Lungay said. “From the bottom of our hearts, a big thank you.”
It’s a big thank you for helping survivors who are forced to live in tents after their homes were destroyed.
Lungay snapped many pictures as he toured the areas most devastated areas by the earthquake. You can see homes and churches turned to rubble.
“I myself went through Katrina and felt, like, crazy, you know. Learning so much from that experience I thought I was being helpful to people, so I thought I had a mission,” Lungay said.
It's a mission that's still ongoing as Lungay remembers his experience in the Philippines and encourages others to help.
If you would like to help disaster victims, you can drop off food and clothing to St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Slidell, or to De La Salle High School in New Orleans. You can also send money directly to Catholic Relief Services.
You can also send donations for Typhoon Haiyan Relief directly to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, at 7887 Walmsley Ave. New Orleans, LA 70125. He will forward donations to bishops in the Philippines to help rebuild their parishes.