Volunteers hand out meals at a Salvation Army facility in Plano, Texas, Feb. 18, 2021, after winter weather caused electricity blackouts. (CNS photo/Shelby Tauber, Reuters)

AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) — The Catholic bishops of Texas said Feb. 20 that the generosity of their fellow Texans reaching out to help their neighbors, even while they are also managing their own needs during a historic winter storm, “is truly edifying.”

“We are grateful for the outpouring of concern from around the world for all who have been affected by the severe weather conditions in Texas,” they added in a joint statement issued by the Austin-based Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, the bishops’ public policy arm.

“We affirm the state leaders who are now paying attention to the underlying preexisting conditions which have exacerbated the suffering of so many,” they said.

The historic winter storms in February shattered electric plants across Texas, prompting energy providers to force blackouts across the state to preserve what fragile electricity they could generate. At least 58 deaths have been linked to the storms and subsequent power outages.

Record snowfall and single-digit temperatures froze the state’s electric systems, pushing over 4.3 million into darkness. The outages, first expected to be “rolling” and only a few hours, stretched to days for millions of Texans. Their homes and cities were ill-prepared for such intense winter weather.

On Feb. 20, President Joe Biden approved Texas’ request for a major disaster declaration, making federal funding available for people affected by the winter storm. News reports Feb. 22 said millions across Texas remained under boil water notices and others were seeking financial relief.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Feb. 21 that “the state continues to distribute aid to Texans while leaders also discuss strategies to ensure its energy system isn’t crippled by weather again in the future,” reported KHOU-TV Channel 11.

The Texas Catholic bishops in their statement said: “Please continue to pray with us for those who have died and been injured; for the first responders and utility workers who are going beyond professional expectations; for the restoration of power, water and food supplies; and for those who face the task of rebuilding and repairing their homes and businesses, as well as our damaged churches and parish facilities, even while all are attempting to remain safe from the coronavirus.

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe wrap us in her mantle of protection, especially the poor who are disproportionately impacted.”

There are 20 active archbishops, bishops and auxiliary bishops, who shepherd approximately 8.5 million Catholics living in Texas, about 30% of the total population.

The bishops said donations to local Texas Catholic Charities agencies would “most efficiently reach Texans.” But they also said donations can be made to Catholic Charities USA at www.CCUSA.online/weather.

On Feb. 19, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also urged donations to Catholic Charities USA.

“In our Lenten almsgiving, let us find concrete ways to help our brothers and sisters,” he said in a statement.

The archbishop said he joined all U.S. Catholic bishops “in praying for all those who have died and been injured in the recent winter storms. We pray especially for those without power and heat and for first responders who are offering assistance to those with urgent needs.”

“I entrust those who are suffering to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother Mary,” he added. “May she grant them all comfort and peace.”