Rich Reynolds and his son, John, fill sandbags in Tampa, Fla., Sept. 26, 2022, as Hurricane Ian spun toward the state. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. | As the Tampa Bay area on Florida's west coast prepared for what was expected to be a direct hit from Hurricane Ian, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg invited all in the diocese to pray to God "for the protection of life and property as we face this serious threat."

"As Hurricane Ian approaches our area, as we make our final preparations, and as we begin to feel the effects of the storm, I invite you to pray with me," he said in a video message released Sept. 27 to the diocese, which includes Tampa.

"Loving God, maker of heaven and earth, protect us in your love and mercy. Send the spirit of Jesus to be with us to still our fears and to give us confidence. In the stormy waters, Jesus reassured his disciples by his presence, calmed the storm and strengthened their faith," he prayed.

"Guard us from harm during the storm and renew our faith to serve you faithfully. Give us the courage to face all difficulties and the wisdom to see the ways your Spirit binds us together in mutual assistance," he continued. "With confidence, we make our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."

News reports said Hurricane Ian hit the western side of Cuba early Sept. 27, moving north and growing in strength to a Category 3 storm with 125 mph sustained winds. The National Hurricane Center predicted the storm would grow bigger before making landfall on Florida "likely near Tampa Bay" late Sept. 28 or Sept. 29.

Bishop Parkes is the spiritual leader of 500,000 Catholics who live along Florida's Suncoast, Tampa Bay and the Nature Coast.

"May God bless you and stay safe," he said in his message.

The bishop's prayer was airing on the radio on Tampa's Spirit FM 90.5 starting Sept. 27. A video was emailed to pastors at the Catholic parishes in the diocese and to 11,000 parishioners.

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