Italian earthquake village priest visits England

l-r: Felicity, Fr Richard  Whinder, Assistant priest,Fr Gerard, Malcolm

l-r: Felicity, Fr Richard Whinder, Assistant priest,Fr Gerard, Malcolm

Fr Gerald Abuachi, parish priest from the village of San Raniero in the L'Aquila region, in Italy, which was devastated in an earthquake in March,  has been in England this week visiting a west London parish that have been raising funds and materials for his community.

This week St Joseph's Church, New Malden, has been officially twinned with Fr Gerald's parish - the first European  parish to twin  with the earthquake region.  Speaking with parish groups and parishioners Fr Gerard said his visit  been a marvellous experience. "The parish has been so welcoming  and caring ”.

Fr Gerald, who has been parish priest of San Raniero for 13 years, said that he thought he was going to die when the earthquake struck. Two parish sisters were crushed to death when they tried to protect children in the orphanage school.

A home for  elderly  priests and laity was damaged and residents evacuated. The home has now been repaired but other buildings  and the church  are completely devastated. Families who have lost their home are being accommodated up to 75 kilometres away. The government had  only provided 1,000 homes and the future seemed bleak No  government aid  was  offered to priests and religious, he said.

Three congregations  of sisters in San Raniero were living in tents until a month ago. Fr Gerald is paying 450 euros a month for lodgings a 40 minute drive away .He desperately needs funds to provide a children's  playcentre and rebuild the church.

Since the quake, Fr Gerard said,  Mass has been  celebrated in a leaky warehouse  which is also used as a classroom. Heaters, vestments and other items have now been provided with St Joseph's assistance. Parishioners Malcolm Surridge and his half Italian wife Felicity, who have visited the earthquake zone are organising fundraising and collecting aid. St Joseph's  is donating guitars, a laptop, blankets and warm clothing. Percussion and woodwind instruments are also needed as are books, Bibles, computers, printer, scanner and photocopier. Fr Gerald is also hoping to find  any redundant statues of St Therese of Lisieux, St Joseph and the Sacred Heart  for his Mass centre.

Children from Corpus Christi primary school are donating gift boxes with school essentials and teachers are giving items for their Italian counterparts. Parishioners are ensuring that the  village children will receive  wrapped Christmas presents.  Malcolm and Felicity Surridge are hoping someone will loan a van so that they can transport items over to Italy. Anyone who can assist with transport, provide musical instruments, computers  or statues   please email: or telephone St Joseph's parish office 0208 942 2602

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