Haitian Covenant Ministry
Ministry Update September 2, 2017
Cardinal Chibly Langlois, the bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti, the first Haitian cardinal in the Catholic Church and Bishop of Les Cayes visited the Diocese of Worcester the weekend of September 2-3, to renew the twinning relationship between parishes in the Diocese of Worcester and the Diocese of Les Cayes, Haiti. Accompanied by Bishop McManus, Cardinal Chibly visited St. Mary's and concelebrated the 4:30 Mass with Bishop McManus.
Ministry Update - July 2, 2017
St. Mary's Haiti Team Visits Boklo
What the eyes don’t see, the heart can’t follow.
In addition to being Pastor of St. Michel’s in Roche-a-Bateau, Fr. Serge is also responsible for 11 surrounding chapels, the majority of which are in hillside communities accessible only by foot or via donkey. We were excited to visit Boklo, a mission chapel that had suffered greatly from hurricane damage.
We set out on foot from Roche-a-Bateau at 7am so we could return before the midday heat. As we began the two and a half hour trek, we encountered Haitians traveling in the opposite direction who, despite the early hour, were completing their long walk to town. The majority of the early morning traffic consisted of school children headed to school. Most were walking, some were on donkeys, but all were impeccably dressed and greeted us with smiles and quizzical looks as we crossed paths.
The beginning of the trail was a wide-open rocky riverbed that required wading through rushing water. We cautiously navigated our footwork on the rough river bottom, and held our breath as locals quickly crossed the swift waters with infant children in their arms. Most were on their way to “baby day” at the dispensary in Roche-a-Bateau.
After the second river crossing we were greeted by Boklo residents with donkeys to assist us for the remainder of the journey. We loaded our backpacks (and some of our bodies) onto the donkeys. After about 10 river crossings the trail narrowed, became much steeper, and incorporated switchback turns. At this point were joined by Boklo’s Parish Council leader, Annez, who had traveled to Roche-a-Bateau the day before. Our group began to tire and take more frequent rest stops but we watched in amazement as Annez traversed the mountain trail effortlessly; not even breaking a sweat.
On the approach to Boklo, we noticed houses being constructed or repaired. Hurricane Matthew had had a devastating affect on the community. Many homes had been completely swept away, and several residents had died from exposure after losing shelter.
Finally, we arrived in the village. We were greeted by the entire community in the remains of their severely damaged chapel. Fr. Serge and Fr. Mike addressed the community, and Annez spoke of their desire to rebuild the chapel, and an adjacent small school building which was completely demolished.
The journey down from Boklo was a bit more somber as we reflected on what we had seen and heard, and discussed how we might help. We asked for and received a cost estimate to rebuild the Boklo chapel, and thanks to the outpouring of generosity from St. Mary’s parishioners, it is possible to rebuild. A first installment for reconstruction was sent at the end of June. We look forward to keeping the St. Mary’s community updated as the Church construction proceeds.
Ministry Update - June 25, 2017
St. Mary's Haiti Team Visits the Schools
School visits were some of the most joyous and energetic experiences of our trip. In the classrooms we were greeted by smiling students who, despite sometimes living in squalor-like conditions, were impeccably dressed. As we entered the classrooms, students rose in unison to welcome us with a song. The privilege of attending school in Haiti is uncertain. The average Haitian has fewer than five years of education and only 61% of the population is literate. Many students rise at 5AM and walk miles to classes, which sometimes start as early as 7AM to beat the midday heat.
The same nuns who operate the dispensary also run St. Joseph’s School which is next to St. Michel’s Church. Overcrowding is an issue. Several classrooms were destroyed by hurricane Matthew and the remaining rooms are tightly packed, with two children sharing a single desk. Indoor toilets have not been available to the students since the hurricane. Some of the $200 in monthly support from St.Mary’s may help address these issues in the near future.
We visited grades one through six, as well as a classroom of Restavec students. These children have been sent to other families to act as domestic servants because their parents can’t afford to care for them. The host family is often unable or unwilling to pay for the child to attend school, but through a special program funded by the sisters, Restavec children now receive limited classroom time.
Armed with candy and a few soccer balls, we were introduced to the students and a game was made of who could remember our names and repeat them back. Later in the morning, a few of the Haiti Committee members presented a women’s health and hygiene program sponsored by Days for Girls International.
Across the street from St. Joseph’s school, the Sisters run a trade school for about a dozen women, ages18 - 40. Their mission is to provide sewing and culinary skills which can give the women a chance to earn a living. We were impressed with the commitment and dedication of the students, and the fine quality of the clothing and tablecloths they produced. Before leaving, we were presented with a beautiful tablecloth to take with us back to St. Mary’s.
Our final school visit occurred in the village of Rosier, a mission chapel of St. Michel’s. For the past several years, St. Mary’s has supported the school by paying eight teachers’ salaries at $50 each per month. While there, we learned that a principal, one additional teacher and a kindergarten program had been added. We were impressed with classroom reconstruction that was underway and funded by a non-government organization. Unfortunately, the church in Rosier remains heavily damaged and the canteen that St. Mary parishioners helped construct was completely destroyed by the hurricane.
Ministry Update - June 18, 2017
St. Mary's Haiti Team Visits the Canteen & Dispensary
The generosity of St. Mary’s parishioners allowed us to fund the repairs to St. Michel Church and rebuild the adjacent food canteen, both casualties of hurricane Matthew. We funded the church repair in three phases. At the time of our arrival, phase two –building up the walls and roof supports– was fully underway.Our group was to act as assistants on the smaller, more manageable canteen project.
Fr. Serge introduced us to the project manager who asked if any of us were “technicians.” We shook our heads “no” in unison and quickly volunteered as manual laborers. We grabbed shovels and wheelbarrows and began removing rocks and concrete rubble from the canteen site. Almost immediately, people from town drifted over to lend a hand and before long, the project became a total community effort. The site was cleared and the stage was set for framing the walls and roof supports.When we left town three days later, the canteen was almost completed. By now they have likely begun serving one hot meal a day, Monday through Friday.
In the afternoon, we visited the dispensary and delivered six suitcases of over-the-counter medications, thanks to donations from St. Mary’s parishioners. The dispensary nurse, SisterMarjorie, began working with St. Mary’s parishioner and pharmacist, Sheila Seed, to sort through and categorize the medications
The Roche-a-bateau dispensary has the feel of a community center. Locals gather there to receive medical care for themselves and their children, sometimes after walking for hours.While we were there, a mother arrived carrying her sick infant and hoping the dispensary could help. In October, she had lost two of her other children to hurricane Matthew.
In the back of the dispensary Sister Marjorie was teaching a nutrition class attended by mothers and their young children.Malnutrition is a significant problem in Roche-a-Bateau. At the dispensary, families are invited to receive basic nutritional information and are sent home with a small supply of healthy foods.
Later in the week we were invited back to the dispensary and introduced to a visiting doctor from Port-au-Prince. We soon found ourselves in the center of a semi-official ceremony where we were thanked for the medications provided by St.Mary’s parishioners and were presented with local crafts.
Ministry Update - June 14, 2017
Progress made on Roof Repairs
Below are pictures sent to St. Mary's from Fr. Serge showing the progress that has been made in repairing the roof of the church.
Ministry Update - June 11, 2017
St. Mary's Haiti Team Visits St. Michel's
We arrived in Roche-a-Bateau on Sunday, May 28th. As we pulled into town we were immediately struck by the damage inflicted by hurricane Matthew. It’s one thing to learn of the damage but another to witness it first hand. Many houses along the coastal road were gone and replaced with tin shacks or tarps spread over wood frames. St. Michel Church no longer had a roof and the parish center and connected canteen, which St. Mary’s helped to construct, were completely ruined.
Fr. Serge greeted us warmly and immediately escorted us next door to St. Joseph’s school where classrooms had been converted to a makeshift chapel. We made our way through the overflow crowd to our seats surrounding the altar. Fr. Serge, with Fr. Mike as con-celebrant, began a spirited celebration that included three First Communions, two baptisms, blessings of the children’s and adult choirs as well as a special blessing for the mothers of St. Michel’s. It was Mother’s Day in Haiti.
Halfway through the nearly three hour celebration a hard rain shower hit but no water penetrated the temporary roofing of the school chapel. During the sign of peace we waded through the congregation exchanging smiles and handshakes with parishioners inside and outside of the building. The Mass ended on a light and joyous note as Martha Serafin tried her hand addressing the congregation in Creole and Fr. Serge presented wrapped gifts to parishioners from both St. Mary’s and St. Michel’s, including a special gift to the most elderly mother of the parish.
After Mass we had lunch at the nearby rectory. As we sat on the shaded veranda Fr. Serge recalled how he nervously hunkered down in the rectory while Hurricane Matthew battered the building. The rectory is an essential parish meeting place and Fr. Serge noted that it was St. Mary’s immediate financial support that allowed him to quickly replace the building’s windows along with the porch roof and iron grating.
Later in the afternoon we sponsored a meal of chicken, rice and beans for the Roche-a-Bateau community. Parish staff and volunteers prepared the meal so we assumed the roles of greeters and servers. People came out of the woodwork. A line of almost three hundred
people, mostly children, wound around the rectory. We scooped from huge, heaping bowls of rice and an industrial sized container of grilled chicken. It was a great opportunity to connect personally with the St. Michel’s community.
Ministry Update - May 27, 2017
Very early this morning eight members of our parish - Charlie Eisenmann, Lane Eisenmann, Tom Josie, Lynne Perreault, Sheila Seed, Patrick Seed, Martha Serafin, Barbara Trudel & Fr. Mike departed for a long-awaited trip Haiti.
Ministry members were initially scheduled to travel to Haiti in November 2016 and had planned to visit with Fr. Serge and the parishioners of St. Michel's and to help them with a few repairs in the Parish Center and Church. Hurricane Matthew and the devastation it had on our sister parish in Roche-a-Bateau changed all of that. The Parish Center they had planned on painting had completely crumbled, the Church they were going to tile had collapsed. The trip was postponed.
As we quickly learned from Fr. Serge, Hurricane Matthew created the need for a different type of support and response. Through the generous donations of St. Mary's parishioners, we were able to raise over 25,000. We requested and received estimates for the major repairs that were needed and began sending money in support of those projects. Great progress is being made as we have seen through the photos and regular updates from Fr. Serge. This week ministry members will have the opportunity to work alongside parishioners of St. Michel's to assist them with rebuilding part of the Parish Center so that the daily feeding program can continue.
Our twinning relationship with St. Michel's unites us and brings us into communion with each other. As you participate in the Eucharist tomorrow at St. Mary's, they will be celebrating Mass with us at St. Michel's and we'll be united by the Eucharist and the real presence of Jesus.
Please keep those traveling this week in prayer for safety, health, strength and faithfulness as they minister to and with our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
THANK YOU to all who donated over-the-counter medications over the past few weekends. We were able to pack 8 suitcases full of your donations along with children's toys to bring along with us!
Thank-you to all who helped us to welcome the Haitian Choir from St. Angela’s in Mattapan at the 9:00am & 11:00am Masses last weekend. THANK-YOU to all who gave so generously to the second collection to support our sister parish in Haiti – St. Michel’s in Roche-a-Bateau. We collected $5,681 for St. Michel’s!
Below are a few pictures Fr. Serge sent us this week that show the progress in the Church Repair project underway at St. Michel's. On May 27th eight members of our parish Haiti Committee will travel to Roche-a-Bateau to visit Fr. Serge and the parishioners of St. Michel’s to assist in helping to rebuild part of the parish hall so that the daily feeding program can continue. We also plan to bring 8 suitcases filled with over the counter medications for clinic in Roche-a-Bateau. Parishioners making the trip to Haiti from May 27 – June 3 are: Charlie Eisenmann, Lane Eisenmann, Tom Josie, Lynne Perreault, Sheila Seed, Patrick Seed, Martha Serafin, Barbara Trudel & Fr. Mike.
Good evening my friends!
First of all, be assured of our prayers, that God gives you strength, humility, peace, health, courage, and wisdom and grants you the necessary gifts for the fulfillment of His purposes. Happy and Holy Year 2017 in faith. This is an opportunity for me to convey to you the appreciation of the parishioners and of my congregation for all your support to this great project of rehabilitating the presbytery. Secondly, I am very pleased to share with you what follows:
Father Serge Denis, OMI
P.S. Pictures attached. Click here to view more before and after photos of the Rectory repairs.
Ministry Update - November 5-6, 2016
The original plan for members of the Haiti Ministry was to reach out to the parish community today on behalf of our sister parish in Roche a Bateau. While we are still doing that, the messaging today is much different than we had expected. We were planning on sharing with you the details of our upcoming trip. This coming Wednesday is when we were scheduled to depart. We were particularly excited because we had a group of 10 that including a physician and three recent college grads who were planning to make the trip. Our work once we got there was also planned. We were going to help electrically wire and paint the Parish Center and tile the floor of St. Michel’s Church. We were also very excited to meet with St. Michel’s pastor who was ready to share and show us some of the improvements and betterments he had made with support from St. Mary’s.
Those plans changed with Hurricane Matthew. Roche-a-Bateau is located on the South West Peninsula of Haiti and, as you may have seen on the news, that is where Matthew wreaked the most havoc. Our sister parish, St. Michel’s and Roche-a-Bateau experienced complete devastation. The Parish Center we were going to paint is in crumbles. The Church we were going to tile collapsed. The Rectory was severely damaged. One of the mission chapels which housed two classrooms is ruined and the school across the street which we support financially is no longer functional. The town was completely flooded. Crops were wiped out. Mud slid down from the deforested hillside. Livestock died in the water and bred Cholera conditions. We knew we could no longer make the trip but we were anxious to learn how we could most effectively help. The immediate need was for clean water and food. Organizations such as Food for the Poor, Catholic Relief Services and the Red Cross are on the ground in Haiti and responded, as best they could, to the immediate humanitarian needs.
Eventually, we heard from Fr. Serge and it was interesting to learn and understand some of the issues that weighed heavily on his mind. He was very concerned about the townspeople’s records that were damaged when the Rectory flooded. In Haiti the parish priest is like the mayor and the rectory is like city hall. A place of gathering and a place to store documents such as marriage licenses and birth certificates. Indeed, the flooded, roof damaged Rectory was the first place the St. Michel community gathered when the hurricane passed. So, it wasn’t surprising to hear from Fr. Serge that his first priority for assistance from St. Mary’s is to help restore the rectory and then help rebuild the school.
We received an estimate of $11,585 to repair the rectory and $12,149 to repair the school. We have already sent $2,000 to begin work on the Rectory. These rebuilding projects will be an ongoing effort but our hope today is to raise enough money to repair the rectory and then begin to focus on the school. We kindly ask for your support during the 2nd collection. Or, perhaps even to consider a monthly or ongoing gift. Please note 100% of contributions will be wired directly to St. Michel. It’s also important to note that when we do re-schedule our trip to Roche-a-Bateau the group travels at their own expense.
The latest word from Fr. Serge is that Masses are being held outside and he hopes to resume school classes this month, even if they are not in the school. He also sent some photographs of the devastation that I encourage you to take a look at on the way out of church. It is our hope, over time, that we will be able to share with you some photos of a rebuilt community.
- Charlie Eisenmann, Haiti Covenant Ministry Chair
|The hydraulic and electric systems have been fully restored.
|We are still working on the roofing of the house. Please note: The old foundation being too weak to support the weight of a “concrete roofing, my Congregation decided to realize the renovation with new wood and metal sheets instead. Of course, it will now cost less than we projected. With the remaining amount, we decided to also renovate the outbuildings of the Rectory, which was an emergency even if not in our priorities. You will receive shortly our financial report for the amount received for the renovation of the Rectory.