July Newsletter - Haiti Reflection from Joan

posted Jun 14, 2017, 12:27 PM by Colleen Moran

“Rejoice, you just, in the Lord;  give glory to His holy name.”   Psalm 97

 

I want to tell you all about my trip to Haiti.  But before I do, I want to thank you all for your continued support for Friar Suppliers.  It is definitely God who runs and propels this little organization.  We could never have thought of doing any of this on our own.  We are only the hands He uses.  We are so grateful for all of your help, because none of this work would be possible if God didn’t inspire you to help the way you do.  Your prayers, your donations and your hours of participation are an inspiration for us to keep on giving.

 

June was a very busy month for the Friars.  They ordained 6 men to the Priesthood.  So that means six first Masses and six celebrations as well.  They ordained 4 men to the diaconate. They held their week long General Chapter.  All the Friars who are in final profession from the various missions in England, Ireland, Honduras, and Nicaragua had to fly home to NY for the “big meeting.”  It was decided that Fr. John Paul will remain the Community Servant and Fr. John Anthony will be the Vicar for the next six years.  The Friars I spoke too said it was a very enjoyable week of fraternity where they shared about the different ways they are ministering.  They talked about what was working and what was not.  They encouraged one another.  Everyone I spoke to seemed to have had a very enjoyable time.  Then just last week, the Friars celebrated the newly received “Pontifical Recognition” with a Mass and a block party that followed.  Charlie and I attended.  It was a lot of fun.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, balloons, cotton candy, face painting for the kids and of course live music by the talented Friars.  I am sure they are looking forward to a slower pace in July.  Many will take there time to visit their families.  The CFR Sisters, of course participated in all of the events in June as well as their own ministries and activities. Busy, busy, busy!

 

And now my reflection about Haiti.  There is so much I want to tell you.

Misery.  There is no other word to describe Haiti.  Misery is everywhere in Haiti.  I thought to myself;  Where is the merciful heart of God in this forsaken country?  What am I doing here?  Why did I ever agree to come to Haiti?  Was I crazy?  These were my thoughts as I sat cramped in the truck on a narrow bench, with my knees under my chin in need of a bathroom, with nine other people, all sweaty and hot.  It would take 31/2 hours to travel 15 miles along  congested, bumpy, filthy, unpaved roads.  People were rushing everywhere.  Motorcycles carried 3 or 4 persons on them.  Colorful painted “tap-taps” (taxis), were stuffed with people inside and hanging on the top and sides.  There were dogs, chickens, goats, pigs roaming freely through the streets in search of a morsel of food.  Every inch of sidewalk space in front of the decrepit buildings was covered with garbage, rotting food, old clothing, bottled drinks and snack foods, and people trying to sell anything they could.  There was garbage and filth everywhere.  Inch by inch, we crawled along in the unbearable heat and traffic while my need to use a bathroom became more and more urgent. Then suddenly, we heard POW, POW, POW, POW.  What was that?  It sounded like gunshots.  Where?  What was happening? Then, I saw on our right about twenty feet away, a man laying on his side on the street.  He was alive.  There was a cop standing over him.  He aimed his gun and purposefully shot him twice in the head.  I hid my eyes and cried;  my God, have mercy on them.  It was a horrific scene!

Misery, there is no other word for Haiti.  Where is the merciful heart of God in this forsaken country?

We finally arrive at our destination, shaken, exhausted and dehydrated.  It seemed like we literally “fell” out of the truck into the arms of our hosts, who greeted us cheerfully and immediately took care of all our needs; bathroom, beverages, rooms, dinner.  Before long we were relaxed, comfortable and secure;  ready of the week ahead of us.

Each day would begin with Mass in Creole at 5:30 am.  That’s right, 5:30 AM!  And we’d go non stop until 9 or 10 pm.  Each day would be a new experience, a new encounter, another adventure.

I fell in love with the people.  Most are warm, friendly, affectionate, sociable, intelligent and eager and willing to please, to help and to work.  For their part, their lives are very boring.  There is nothing to do except their daily chores of carrying water, washing clothes in the river or a bucket for water, and trying to sell something to get a few “goudes” (Haitian currency) to buy some rice and beans to feed their hungry children.  There is no lack of children to play with.  Little children are playing everywhere.  They seem to belong to everyone.

Everyday, we worked in the orphanage.  I found that my english language was not an obstacle for the children there.  We played circle games, sang songs and fingerplays, shared crackers, fruit snacks, lollipops and water.  Kids understand hugs and kisses, tickles and giggles.  There was plenty of love to go around.  

One afternoon, we were invited to visit three High school classrooms of students who were studying english.  They wanted to practice conversation. It was an amazing two hours.  I was so impressed with these young students.  They asked all kinds of questions about ourselves.  We talked about the USA and Haiti.  We talked about history, government, law, politics, love and their dreams for the future.  We did some grammar. (They knew english grammar better than I did.) And, we talked about how they can improve their lives and their country.  I was so deeply impressed by their english, their intelligence and understanding.  My admiration and respect for the Haitian people was growing as I began to meet more and more people who are working so hard to better themselves and their communities.  They are hungry for knowledge.

One young man named Johnny came to me after class and asked me to simply be his friend or mentor to encourage him and give him advice from time to time so that he doesn’t lose hope.  He is trying so hard to improve his life for himself, his family and his country.  He feels an overwhelming responsibility as the oldest of 5 brothers to care for his aging parents and younger siblings.  He asked me only for encouragement and prayers.  How could I refuse?  We now communicate daily on Facebook.

Another highlight was a conversation I had with one of our interpreters named Emmanuel.  We talked of hours one night about religion.  Emmanuel is an evangelical protestant and had many misunderstandings about Catholicism.  I was able to help him understand our Catholic teaching on Mary, confession, saints and statues in our churches.  And, NO!  Catholics do not practice Voodoo!  Unfortunately, the culture in Haiti is filled with Voodoo and witchcraft, from the history as African slaves.  Many Catholic Haitians have confused the two and therefore practice both.  It’s a terrible problem for the church.  Emmanuel explained to me that good people who understand the dangers of witchcraft are leaving the Catholic church to be protestants and to get away from those practicing Voodoo.  Apparently, the many different protestant denominations who come to help in Haiti are very successful at evangelizing.  We Catholic need to do a better job of evangelizing in Haiti. This was an eye-opener for me.

Amidst all the ugliness and misery of poverty that I saw in Haiti, I also saw a lot of signs of hope and good work going on.  The Little Brothers and Sisters of St.Therese are doing wonderful work, running schools, clinics, and teaching skills.  We are proud as Friar Suppliers to be helping them.  Our contributions are helping them to expand their work.   Their schools are growing.  The children are learning, reading, writing, math, history, religion.  They also learn carpentry, sewing, cooking, music, art, and a foreign language, usually french.  Because of the fund raising efforts of Marylou Connors (one of our dedicated missionaries) the children are receiving lunches three days a week.  That’s close to 3,000 meals a week!

I met a Haitian man named Dr. Jimmy who is studying to be a doctor.  He started an organization to help his fellow Haitians.  He and his volunteers teach seminars on health and environmental issues such as, Zika, HIV, nutrition, sanitation, prenatal care, and protecting the environment.  He and his cohorts also teach agriculture to farmers and jewelry making to youth so they can sell something rather than beg. What a beautiful soul.

The energy that it takes just to survive daily in Haiti is exhausting, discouraging and debilitating. And yet, I see most people making heroic efforts to help themselves and others.  There is a real community spirit there.  Everyone helps each other.

Where is the merciful heart of God in this forsaken country?

I discovered His merciful heart present in the hearts of many Haitian individuals who are trying to live good lives and in the many volunteers and donors who live the virtues of mercy; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, instruct the ignorant and to save souls.  

 

 


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