July 23, 2016 2:08 pm

We thank the Abbot General for sharing the message which he received a few days ago from Mother Yosua, prioress of the Monastery of Esmeraldas in Ecuador. We accompany with prayer and fraternal thought her community and its region affected by a severe earthquake in April, and whose effects can still be felt today.

Dear Dom Eamon,
I want to tell you a little bit about our present situation in connection with “earthquakes”.  We are going through a somewhat difficult moment.  Perhaps you remember that the earthquake that hit Ecuador, in the districts of Manabi and Esmeraldas, happened on April 16.  Since then we have had some 2,100 aftershocks, and they continue….  Of course, we don’t always notice these, thanks be to God, but in many cases we do, and they all center around Esmeraldas, exactly on our coast.  Some days we have as many as 10 aftershocks, some days less, some stronger than others, some by day (which you can weather better), others by night, that drive us out of the monastery at 2 or 3 in the morning….  One came just as we were singing Vigils, and it seemed that the whole church was going to crash down on us.  We ran out in a hurry, but once it had passed we regained our composure and returned to the church to pray.

The sisters are reacting well, with one or other being more nervous and edgy.  Most of us are a little stressed out and tense, always awaiting the arrival of the next “dance”, and wondering how strong it will be.  Life continues as usual and we have barely changed [the schedule].  I marvel at how the sisters handle the situation so well.  And so we’re able to follow the daily rhythm of things, which now and then is shaken by the quakes.  The monastery building is taking all this shaking well.  I called the engineer who built it for an assessment, about a month ago, and at that time he told me that, even though there were a lot of cracks, these weren’t dangerous, and that the core of the building wasn’t affected.  But since that time the movements have increased, and there are now many more cracks, but they don’t seem to be deep.  Still, I’m going to call the engineer again for him to come and do a new evaluation.  Nothing can be done for the time being, until the earth becomes calm again and settles.  I suppose that afterwards we’ll have to do all kinds of repairs, especially the outside walkways that are all split up, and completely destroyed in some places.

The saddest thing is how much people are suffering in all the surrounding towns.  They can’t find a way of starting life normally again because the earth doesn’t stop shaking.  All of the beaches in our district are completely empty, and remember that all those towns thrived on tourism.  They’re in financial ruin, because no one wants to come to vacation in Esmeraldas!  We too have felt this effect on our economy, because our guest house is almost empty.  If a sister does come on retreat, she has a terrible time of it when the ground starts shaking at night, and the priests are so busy coping with the problem that no one has time to think of ordering vestments.  This is another line of work that is at a standstill, and no visitors come to our store either.  But we can’t complain because our brothers and sisters outside are much worse off.

We’ve helped people to the extent possible, and if priests or sisters involved in earthquake ministry come to us to rest for a bit, we don’t accept any donations from them in the guest house.  This is one way of joining in the effort.  But it’s really a very small thing, and our real contribution rather is our prayer.  They know this and are continually asking for us to pray.

We always pray for you, and on Saint Benedict’s day we remembered you in a special way.
A big hug from your sister,