National News

Pastor on Surfside Relief Efforts: ‘Catholic Charities is Everywhere’

Emergency workers in Surfside, Fla., conduct search and rescue efforts June 28, 2021, at the site of a partially collapsed residential building. (Photo: CNS/Joe Skipper, Reuters)

WINDSOR TERRACE — The pastor of the church closest to the collapsed condo tower in Surfside, Florida, expressed gratitude for the many people and organizations that have stepped up to help families of the victims still trapped in the rubble.

“Everybody wants to help. Everybody wants to donate things and be able to assist, especially the relatives of these families,” Father Juan Sosa, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Miami Beach, told Currents News on June 30.

The collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo on June 24 was particularly devastating to the St. Joseph’s Church community; eight families who are members of the congregation are among the missing. 

“Right now we had a person call the church providing two apartments, very close by the building,” Father Sosa said. “And so we’re contacting some of … the 35 [people from the uncollapsed section] that were able to leave, in case they want to use those apartments. So that’s great. Catholic Charities is present everywhere. So we’re doing the best we can.”

As of July 1, the death toll stood at 18, with 145 people unaccounted for.

Father Juan Sosa said he saw the devastation on his morning walk. (Photo: courtesy of Father Juan Sosa)

Father Sosa said the number of missing from his church could be higher.  

“Only eight [families] are from the original resident register. Then you have friends,” he said, explaining that the families could have had people staying in the condos with them. 

“I know a couple whose son is not living there but who is spending a week with his parents. Plus, we get a lot of visitors as you can imagine from other parts of America,” he said.

Father Sosa got a close-up view of the devastation in the aftermath of the collapse. 

“I was pretty close that very morning on my morning walk. I met parishioners, who were very much by the beach, exactly about a block away,” he said. “And we were able to have some pictures taken. At that time it was a shock, more than anything else.”

At such a horrific time, the parish is using the power of prayer to help people cope with the tragedy, the pastor said.