Puerto Rico: ‘An unprecedented level of need’

An uprooted tree is seen in front of the Catholic chancery in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 20, a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

An uprooted tree is seen in front of the Catholic chancery in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 20, a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Margarita Rodriguez holds a flashlight as she quizzes her 11-year-old daughter, Isel Martinez, about homework outside their home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 25. Most of Puerto Rico was without power and water for more than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Margarita Rodriguez holds a flashlight as she quizzes 11-year-old daughter Isel Martinez about homework outside their home in San Juan Oct. 25. Most of Puerto Rico was without power and water for more than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

By Greg Erlandson
Catholic News Service

Hurricane Irma and Maria had a devastating impact on the island of Puerto Rico. As the U.S. bishops have described it, “the people of Puerto Rico face an unprecedented level of need” as a result of these storms.

A U.S. commonwealth, Puerto Rico has a population of 2.7 million Catholics, with 1 archdiocese, five dioceses and 329 parishes. For almost two months the island has dealt with the aftereffects of the storms, including a collapsed power grid and a lack of clean drinking water or other assistance in many parts of the island.

A prekindergarten student looks at the photographer in the classroom at Good Heart of Mary Catholic School in San Juan, Puerto, Rico, Oct. 26. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A prekindergarten student looks at the photographer in the classroom at Good Heart of Mary Catholic School in San Juan, Puerto, Rico, Oct. 26. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Catholic News Service was the first major Catholic news organization to send a photographer and a reporter to tour the island and document the efforts of the church and other organizations to help many of the people far from the capital of San Juan.

In addition, the team interviewed Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Bishop Daniel Fernandez of Arecibo and countless others intent on helping these American citizens get back on their feet.

Here are links to the four stories the team produced in Puerto Rico for CNS and its clients:

And here are more of our favorite photos from the trip. (You can see even more photos in this album on our Facebook page.)

Father Carlos Francis Mendez, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, delivers aid with parishioners' help to a remote area outside the town Oct. 24. It was the first aid residents of the poor area had received at their homes more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Father Carlos Francis Mendez, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, delivers aid with parishioners’ help to a remote area outside the town Oct. 24. It was the first aid residents of the poor area had received at their homes more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A destroyed home is seen Oct. 24 in a remote area outside Las Marias, Puerto Rico, more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A destroyed home is seen Oct. 24 in a remote area outside Las Marias, Puerto Rico, more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A young woman cools off under spring water from a mountain as people wait to fill containers Oct. 21 in Utuato, Puerto Rico. The town was without power or water for more than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A young woman cools off under spring water from a mountain as people wait to fill containers Oct. 21 in Utuato, Puerto Rico. The town was without power or water for more than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A man walks through an empty street Oct. 21 in Utuato, Puerto Rico. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A man walks through an empty street Oct. 21 in Utuato, Puerto Rico. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Catholic dairy farmer Gustavo Toledo stands near his destroyed farm buildings Oct. 22 in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Catholic dairy farmer Gustavo Toledo stands near his destroyed farm buildings Oct. 22 in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Downed power lines are seen Oct. 24 in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Downed power lines are seen Oct. 24 in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, more than one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A woman plays with a child during Mass Oct. 22 at St. Rafael the Archangel Church in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A woman plays with a child during Mass Oct. 22 at St. Rafael the Archangel Church in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. (CNS/Bob Roller)

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Erlandson is director and editor in chief for Catholic News Service.

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