How Schoenstatt Movement in Australia Has Been Affected by Fires
This is from a personal perspective as I cannot speak for everyone in the movement.
However, these catastrophic fires are burning across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania, that is across the Eastern and Western seaboards of Australia and the most populous states in Australia. Millions of people are directly affected by the huge fire walls approaching towns.
In my area, the beautiful and world renowned Blue Mountains of NSW, we experienced fires approaching at 80 -90 kilometres an hour, with a height equivalent to a 17 storey building. My area wasevacuated on three occasions, I had hot ash raining on me, once you saw the fire on the horizon, we could hear our Saviours the Firies(in Australia, these are your average everyday man and woman, who train weekly and are volunteers on the ready to protect properties and more importantly save lives). We have a paid fire brigade that protects the suburbs, towns and Cities but the Rural Fire Brigades are volunteers that save our bushlands. Thousands of volunteers have been fighting fires fulltime for over 6 weeks now. The first time I was sent the automativemessage to leave now or be prepared to fight to save your home –I left as I am a single, middle aged woman and I would not be able to climb on my roof nor outrun a 17 storey firestorm. So I entrusted my home to St. Michael and left. My friends and neighbors who did not leave have shown me the footage of how close they came to losing our town Blackheath. What surprised me was the furious sound the fire made, it was a loud wind sound. This fire is like nothing Australia has witnessed before, it is creating its own weather patterns a fiery tornado’s or fire storms. What struck me, children, woman and pets left, the day I was told to leave.I could see the cars packed with children and animals. An hour after I left the main roads were closed and people were “forced “to stay.
A friend I grew up with in the Schoenstatt youth –Geraldine, is one of the brave volunteers who uses her weekends and holidays to fight the fires. Geraldine opened her home to me and she kept me informed of what was happening. I had15 fire trucks saving the homes in my street. My town was one of the lucky ones –no houses were lost. Friends closer to the bush than I,the fire came within centre metres but the wonderful town fire brigade and the rural Fire Service saved all the homes. We thought the fire threat in my area was over, then a few days later another hot dayand the winds reignited the fire and this time it was just around the corner –brave locals joined the fight. One man who has lived in Blackheath for 94 years –said he has seen nothing like it. This is what all the firies are saying too. 5 days after the two main threats, at 11.30pm on NYE out of the blue a tree across the road exploded –setting offthe third emergency. What people who are not from Australia may not realise is Australia has been in drought for 4 or 5 years. Whilst our native trees require fire for germination and growth, the trees are nearly dead or bone dry, experts are predicting hundreds of thousands of tree’s will not grow back this time. A huge catastrophe is 1/3 of the NSW Koala population have perished, the Koala is now an endangered species. Over one billion native Australian animals across our continent have perished and entire species are now extinct, this is not only a fire disaster it is an ecological disaster.
The main drinking water dam –Warragamba (15 kms) from the National Shrine is onlyat42% capacity. We are still in drought. While I praisedGod every time a water bomber flewoverhead, knowing thatthey were protecting us, I wanted to crybecause I knew thatthe water being dropped wasfrom our precious water supply.For the past 6 weeks Australians have not had clean air, we have all been breathing in thick smoke and ash particles. Our skin has been burnt by hot ash falling and burning leaves in the atmosphere.
Medical Specialists do not know the effect this will have on the population’s long term health. At the beginning of the fires, experts were saying it is like each of us are smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day and air quality has been worsening over the whole of Australia over the past 6 weeks.Australia is like awar zone with nature. Many areas are a lot more devastated than my area, entire area’s look like a desolate moon crater –all grey dust and only blackened rubble.Australia is in crisis and we are traumatised, this is an ecological, natural and financial disaster. Many people who have lost homes and their livelihood have publicly announced“I am an atheist but all I could do was pray to God”, many non-believershave shared theirstories and stated they have seen miracles of survival. 25 lives have been lost, thousands of homes, over a billion animals and we are still in the midst of the disaster. For those not directly in the line of fire, we are suffocated bysmoke and we are all traumatised. People have likened the fire to an angry dragon –we never know when or where he is going to show his angry head and fire.Over these past weeks Ihave sought refuge many times in the Shrine, just emotionally drained.I know our Schoenstatt family are prayingfor rain and for protection from the fires and I ask the wider International Family to continue to pray for us. Our Shrines have been close to the fires but protected. There I thank our MTA for all your prayers for us.I finish this article of a positive note –last night rain began to fall and it is forecast for the next few days: a real answer to prayer.Michelle Davis (NSW Women’s league)