Precariously resting on the edge of an altar leaning forward from the impact of the earthquake that struck Puerto Rico, a tabernacle was retrieved intact from a church in Puerto Rico and brought to safety.
In the early hours of Jan. 7, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the island, the last of a series of quakes that began Dec. 28. The earthquake left one dead, various people injured, serious damage to the infrastructure, and a power outage on the island. A state of emergency was declared.
Local Catholic media El Visitante, who had journalists on site, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that the tabernacle was rescued from Immaculate Conception church in Guayanilla which completely collapsed from aftershocks. The town lies 8 miles west of Ponce, the epicenter of the earthquake.
El Visitante said the rescue of the tabernacle, and the Eucharist within it, took place at dawn, minutes before an aftershock left the church in ruins. “As if the tremor was waiting for the Eucharist to leave in order to continue the destruction.”
The tabernacle was in a chapel “in the left nave of the church. The early morning tremor destroyed the chapel, making the altar tilt forward. The tabernacle didn’t fall to the ground. It was almost suspended in the air lightly held up on the leaning altar.”
Heros of the Eucharist
The tabernacle was rescued by the pastor Fr. Melvin Díaz and Fr. Orlando Rivera along with the faithful. Rivera used to work at the church but now lives in Peñuelas, a town near Guayanilla.
El Visitante of Puerto Rico said the hosts “had spilled inside the tabernacle” but were gathered up by Fr. Rivera while Fr. Melvin retrieved “the large Host used for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.”
“The faithful took the tabernacle and went out in procession over the rubble. The faithful with the tabernacle, Fr. Orlando with the ciborium and Fr. Melvin with the large Sacred Host. They went to the rectory a few steps from the parish to protect the Blessed Sacrament with all the dignity it deserves,”
“They were the heroes of the Eucharist,” El Visitante concluded.