Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the
depths of the sea;
Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.—Psalm 46:1-4
On Sept. 18, Tropical Storm Fiona strengthened into a Category One hurricane and made landfall along the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico near Punta Tocon. The storm was incredibly slow-moving and dumped up to 30 inches of rain on some parts of the island, which has still not recovered from 2017’s Category 5 Hurricane Maria. Fiona destroyed thousands of homes and caused severe mudslides, flooding, and enormous power outages before moving into the Caribbean, strengthening and hitting the Dominican Republic, where it has caused similar flooding and power outages. NBC News reports that more than 725,000 are without water service in the Dominican Republic.
In an article on Thursday, InsiderNJ reported that Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered that aid and assistance from the state be delivered to Puerto Rico. 74 New Jersey State Troopers and a civilian doctor are going to Puerto Rico to help. Murphy said, “Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Puerto Rico during this devastating time. New Jersey knows all too well the devastating effects hurricanes can bring to communities and we will do what we can to support Puerto Rico in its time of need…We will continue to monitor the situation and send additional support as needed.”
This past Tuesday, the Bishops of Province II, which includes the bishops of New York State, New Jersey, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Haiti, and Puerto Rico, met and heard from Bishop Rafael Morales, who is the Bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico. He indicated damage from the storm was significant and that the diocese would need lots of assistance.
In a statement released by Episcopal News Service, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, “Just five years after Hurricane Maria caused such devastation in Puerto Rico, the people there are now faced with Hurricane Fiona. I ask Episcopalians and other people of goodwill to pray for Bishop Rafael Morales and the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico as they stand with their fellow Puerto Ricans. ” He also said, “Please pray also for Bishop Moises Quesada and the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and for all those impacted by this horrendous storm. And I thank God for Episcopal Relief & Development and their efficient response to this crisis.”
As they do so well, and as they did in New Jersey when this state was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, Episcopal Relief and Development is responding to all those who are impacted by Fiona—Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and beyond. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic both have fragile economies and limited capacity to respond to these kinds of disasters. It is imperative that those of us who have some means respond generously and compassionately to those in need.
There are so many humanitarian challenges around the world: the immigration crisis in this country; the brutality of the war in Ukraine, war in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan (yes, the war continues there). It is tempting to succumb to “compassion fatigue.” As people of faith, we are challenged to resist this.
This week’s Gospel reading from Luke 16:19-31 tells the story often referred to as “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.” It is included among a series of teachings concerning wealth. This week’s parable portrays what is clearly a severe judgment against the Rich Man who is “being tormented” in Hades and who cries out for mercy.
A significant point that should be made about this parable is that the Rich Man doesn’t come under God’s judgment for being wealthy per se, he comes under God’s judgment because of his indifference to others and how he used. the wealth that was entrusted to him during his life. This challenge faces each of us as well.
Our salvation is a grace and gift of God freely given. We don’t do anything to earn it. It was earned for us by Christ and his cross. Our “works” and acts of compassion are our response of love to the love that God so abundantly showers on us. Please respond to those impacted by Hurricane Fiona as generously as you can. You can contribute to ERD here.
And please pray for those impacted by this storm and by the storms of life wherever they are raging.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
 See Rojas, Ricardo “Hurricane Fiona slams Dominican Republic after pounding Puerto Rico” – AP News/NBCNews published on the NBC News website, Friday, September 16, 2022 found at Hurricane Fiona slams Dominican Republic after pounding Puerto Rico (cnbc.com)
 See Li, David K, et al “Hurricane Fiona heads towards Bermuda, leaving a wake of destruction on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic” – NBC News website – September 22, 2022 found at Hurricane Fiona path targets Bermuda after hitting Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic (nbcnews.com)
 See “Governor Murphy Sends Aid to Puerto Rico in Wake of Devastating Hurricane Fiona” – InsiderNJ website – September 22, 2022 – found at Governor Murphy Sends Aid to Puerto Rico in Wake of Devastating Hurricane Fiona – Insider NJ
 See Paulsen, David “Hurricane Fiona inundates Puerto Rico, knocks out power 5 years after Maria’s devastation” – Episcopal News Service – September 19, 2022 found at Hurricane Fiona inundates Puerto Rico, knocks out power 5 years after Maria’s devastation – Episcopal News Service
 See “6 Current Conflicts in the World Today and Their Effects on Global Hunger” on the United Nations World Food Programs website found at 6 Current Conflicts in the World Today and Their Effects on Global Hunger (wfpusa.org)
 The Gospel reading appointed in the Revised Common Lectionary for Proper 21 – Year C
 Romans 5:1