CHICAGO — Following a late October visit to Puerto Rico, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said Catholic communities on the island are feeling dispirited by the lack of recovery more than four years after a pair of hurricanes destroyed schools, homes, businesses and churches.

While crediting Catholic Puerto Ricans’ “spirit of resiliency,” Cupich said it was time for more rapid recovery to take place. “It is especially urgent for our Catholic schools to be restored,” he said in a statement released Oct. 28 by Catholic Extension.

The cardinal visited Puerto Rico Oct. 24-28 as chancellor of Catholic Extension, a Chicago-based papal mission society that has been supporting the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses since its founding in 1905.

It was his second visit since hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 in response to a request from Pope Francis to review the situation and report on his findings.

The storms damaged more than 1,000 church properties including more than 30 Catholic schools, Catholic Extension said. A 2020 earthquake in Puerto Rico’s south caused additional damage.

Cupich visited some of the most impoverished and isolated communities during his visit.

Catholic Extension officials said Catholic churches and schools have yet to be rebuilt across the island even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated $2.3 billion for public schools.

Cupich called for fair and equitable treatment of church-connected properties by FEMA, with churches and schools being prioritized.

The agency said it was working with FEMA, local officials and local church leaders to secure funding while raising awareness of the dire situation of the Puerto Rican Catholic Church.

“In moments of great difficulty and challenge, you can see the power and the presence of faith in Puerto Ricans’ hearts and lives,” Father Jack Wall, Catholic Extension president, said in a statement. “This underscores the vital importance of our continued efforts to restore the churches and rebuild Catholic schools on this beautiful island.”

Catholic Extension raises funds to help build faith communities and churches in U.S. mission dioceses, which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources.

It has partnered with Illinois-based Hagerty Consulting, which specializes in emergency management, in the recovery process in Puerto Rico.