Friars, Ministries Respond to Haiti Earthquake

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — While Haiti native Cidouane Joseph, OFM, of Holy Name of Jesus Church here, awaited word on siblings living in Port-au-Prince this past weekend, Province ministries prayed for and donated to earthquake victims, especially St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., which supports a sister church there. 

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, and Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, issued a statement last week saying that the 16 friars from the Province of Central America and Panama who were in Haiti are safe. Holy Name Province learned from Cidouane on Monday that his brothers and sisters are safe, though one sister suffered injuries.

“We desire to stand in solidarity with God’s People in Haiti,” wrote John and Dominic, “to offer them our prayers and to reach out in their time of suffering.” The two also said that the Province was donating $20,000 to Catholic Relief Services, the lead organization in the Catholic response effort. They urged ministries and friaries to give as they are able and to hold the people of Haiti in prayer. 

Thomas Cole, OFM, HNP’s mission promoter, said last week that the phone “was ringing off the hook” with friars and ministries asking how to help. He was suggesting that people donate through CRS, which made an immediate commitment of $5 million for emergency supplies toward victims of what the CRS called Haiti’s “disaster of the century.” 

A Sister Church in Haiti
Michael Jones, OFM, of St. Patrick-St. Anthony, who is on the board of the Haitian Ministries for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said that though there was damage to the Norwich Mission House in Haiti, all staff members were accounted for and several had returned to Connecticut. The mission house is the place where many parishioners stay while on mission trips to Haiti, according to Michael. He also said that the dramatic rescue of one mission staffer from rubble was featured on the NBC’s Today show.

The St. Patrick-St. Anthony Web site posted information about its sister church of St. Genevieve in Zoranje, Haiti, having lost some parishioners who were visiting Port-au-Prince, the area most affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake. Fr. Frixner Jean Francois of St. Genevieve said that the back of the church collapsed, but the main building was mostly intact, and serving people coming to the town for help. The Web site also includes updates as well as stories from survivors. 

“Many buildings were leveled, including the presidential palace, the parliament building, the Catholic cathedral, the Episcopal cathedral, hospitals, schools and homes,” wrote Michael in an e-mail to HNP Today. “Archbishop Miot, an important and much loved shepherd of the Haitian people and a friend to St. Patrick-St. Anthony, was killed when the cathedral collapsed. Also killed were 100 priests and seminarians at the seminary attached to the cathedral.”

The board of Haitian Minstries is considering sending a team of people to Haiti next week to work on setting up a temporary office for organizing a system for getting aid to people, Michael said.

The parishioners of the Hartford parish have already raised $41,700, according to the Web site, including a $10,000 challenge grant for Haitian Ministries. The church, where Thomas Gallagher, OFM, is pastor, is matching all donations received up to $10,000. Contributions can be made online or by sending a check to Patrick-St. Anthony.

Support Around the Province
St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City was responding the best it knew how — in prayer, solidarity and support. 

On Jan. 26 at 7 p.m., the church community is holding a Night of Remembrance, inviting people to join in prayer and song to raise their voices to God for those lost, suffering and mourning. In addition, the church has set up a shrine featuring artwork of a Madonna and child painted in Port-au-Prince, and a perpetual flame is lighted for the victims. Votive candles, a book of remembrance and prayer cards are also available.

“The friars and staff are deeply grieved at the loss of life and the suffering in Haiti,” said an announcement fromJerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of the church on West 31st Street. 

haiti-rAll of St. Francis Church’s’ gifts from the second collections during January Masses will go to CRS for Haiti. 

St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., which has strong roots with the local Haitian community, held a prayer vigil on Jan. 15 that was reported on by a local television station. It included Mass celebrated by Fr. Jean-Marie Kabango-Lenge, OFM. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washignton, D.C., welcomed the congregation of more than  800 people mainly Haitians and Haitian-Americans from around the nation’s capital as well as members of the diverse communitiy of St. Camillus Parish.

“We had collections over the weekend and people were very generous,” said Jacek Orzechowki, OFM, guardian. 

Province members are asked to continue their prayers, especially for the siblings of Cidouane, who was born in Carrefour des Peres, Milot, Haiti and raised in Cap Haitien, Haiti. He graduated from the Grand Seminaire Notre Dame in Turgeau, Port-au-Prince. Before joining the Franciscans, Cidouane was in the formation program of the Holy Cross Fathers in Haiti and then a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince. He has been working with the Haitian community at Holy Name of Jesus Parish on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as part of an internship, while he prepares to profess his final vows as a Franciscan friar. 

Cid said that the support and concern for him, his family and his country that he received from friars was very appreciated. 

“I want to thank you for your prayers, love, caring, and moral, spiritual and emotional support,” Cid said, adding after hearing the situation of his siblings earlier this week, “Now, I feel some relief that even though the homes of my siblings were flattened, they are all alive.”

The 16 friars serving in Haiti live in three local fraternities in the Port-au-Prince area. One of the friaries, close to the presidential palace, was badly damaged according to the newly-designed Web site of the Order of Friars Minor, which has photos of the earthquake-damaged country, one of which is shown above. 

The rear image shows a poster created by Timothy Shreenan, OFM, displayed outside St. Francis Church in Manhattan.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.

Editor’s note: More details about the Haiti situation will follow, as the Provincial Office learns of how Province ministries are helping the rescue and recovery and rebuilding efforts.