By Paul Dobbyn
BRANCHES broken by the fury of Cyclone Ita have been used in Cooktown’s St Mary’s Church to celebrate a Palm Sunday prayer service with a difference.
Pastoral leader Mercy Sister Irene Masterson said gratitude was the predominant mood during a “beautiful prayer service” attended by about a dozen parishioners.
“We used foliage broken by the high winds as our palms and offered thanksgiving for being spared from what could have been total devastation,” she said.
“It was certainly a prayer service with a very different atmosphere than usual.”
Sr Masterson said “miraculously” Cyclone Ita, initially a monster category 5 cyclone, had lost much of its power before reaching Cooktown.
She credited the power of prayer for this, speaking of “many wonderful stories of faith”.
“A lot of prayer went into this,” she said.
“For example, Lakeland Downs has about 50 Tongan workers who are wonderful prayers.
“They prayed their community would be spared and didn’t lose a single banana plant in their large plantation.”
On Friday, April 11 as Ita approached, Sr Masterson had spoken with concern of facing her first big cyclone.
She counted herself fortunate to have lived into her 70s in the far north and to have always been “where cyclones weren’t”.
It was also the first significant cyclone Cooktown had faced in more than 60 years.
Despite Cyclone Ita’s loss of power shortly after reaching land, the experience was still “frightening”, Sr Masterson said.
“The roar of the wind and the sound of breaking trees was terrible and constant and the heat was terrible as I remained locked for hours in my bathroom for safety,” she said.
“However, in the end the only damage to my house was a section of guttering hit by part of a neighbour’s tree.”
Speaking from Cooktown on Monday, April 14, she said while the damage was minor considering what could have happened, the town bore widespread evidence of the “big blow”.
“Much of the town has a new colour scheme,” Sr Masterson said.
“We’re calling it ’green splat’ … it’s from chopped up leaves blown everywhere through town by high winds.
“The phones remained working throughout the cyclone – they’re underground.
“However, power is limited and only working in some areas.”
Sr Masterson was about to head to the local St Vincent de Paul Society shop, which she described as a “great source of contact and support” for those in need after the cyclone.
She concluded the conversation with the comment: “It’s good to know I’m surrounded by so many praying people.”