On Sept. 27, people from around the world will focus on “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future” during 2013 World Tourism Day, a Vatican designated event.
In their remarks addressing the occasion of World Tourism Day, members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People noted that “concern for the environment is an important topic for Pope Francis, who has already made many references to it.”
According to data from the United Nations, about one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.
Twenty years ago, the people of the diocese of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic, the Diocese of Orlando’s sister diocese, were among that one billion. Today, through the efforts of the faithful of the Diocese of Orlando and the people of the Dominican Republic, more than 20,000 water filter systems have been placed in the homes of our mission brothers and sisters, thus reducing illnesses and creating sustainable life.
When the first diocesan medical team traveled to the Dominican Republic in 1992, the missionaries were alarmed by the number of water-related illnesses around them. Many of the people, especially children, were malnourished, in part because of the parasites found in their water supply. The people were washing their clothes, bathing and drinking in the same water used by their livestock.
A study on the public water supply was conducted and revealed that there was no safe public source or natural source for clean water in the area. The answer to this crisis was a cost-effective filtration system, using two five-gallon buckets and two filters, that each family could buy, maintain and use to filter the water for cooking, cleaning and most importantly drinking. The system, designed by an engineer from Central Florida, reduces up to 85% of contaminants and pollutants.
“When the people have clean water, you see a difference in their lives almost immediately, especially after they have been de-parasited,” Sister Bernie McKay, director of the Mission Office, said in an informational video. “It is noticeable very fast.”
As Catholics, water is more than a source of our physical well-being; it is associated with our spiritual life as well.
“Water speaks of life, purification, regeneration and transcendence,” the members of the Pontifical Council noted in their writings. “In the liturgy, water manifests the life of God shared with us in Christ. Jesus himself presents himself as the one who quenches our thirst.”
“Baptism is about water,” Sister McKay said. “Baptism is in water. It is a symbol of being reborn. Our challenge is to help create new possibilities for our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic.”