Hartford Parish Celebrates Haitian Culture

Rebecca Doel Around the Province

HARTFORD, Conn. — St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish hosted its fifth annual Taste of Haiti June 6 at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministries here. The fundraiser to benefit St. Genevieve Church in Zoranje, Haiti, was attended by 250 parishioners and community members.

The event, born out of a dual need to fundraise creatively and build awareness, raised nearly $10,000 for St. Patrick-St. Anthony’s sister parish. The money will help fund a variety of programs at St. Genevieve’s, primarily a lunch program, according to Michael Jones, OFM, associate pastor and staff liaison to the Sister Parish Committee.

“We feed about 400 children each day during the school year,” he said. “For many, this is the only meal they might have that day.”

Collaborative Effort
Michael described the fundraiser as a success on many levels. “The event was lively, and the food was delicious,” he said. Attendees dined on traditional Haitian dishes such as rice and beans, pumpkin soup, beet salad and chicken Creole, all prepared by volunteers.

The fundraiser was a cooperative effort not only between the “twin” parishes but also between the parish and the Hartford Haitian community, who contributed time in food preparation, marketing and securing entertainment for the event.

“As the mission of the Sister Parish is first and foremost to build community,” Mike said, “we feel we accomplished this goal both locally and internationally.”

In addition to dinner, the “Taste” included door prizes, Haitian music and art. Mike said at one point in the evening, a conga line wove through the hall.

Haiti’s Back Porch, a part of Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, also participated in the event. The program purchases directly from Haitian artisans, with 20 percent of the proceeds directly benefitting St. Genevieve’s. Mike said the remainder of the profits benefit other Haitian Ministries programs.

The parish, where Thomas Gallagher, OFM, is pastor, has also compiled a Haitian cookbook to raise money for St. Genevieve as well as to expand knowledge of Haitian culture in the community of Hartford.

hartford-bValuable Partnership
Mike said he and parishioners who have had the opportunity to visit Haiti have been changed for the better by the partnership. “Not just because we have a better appreciation for what we, in the United States, have,” he said, “but also because we can feel the genuine love the people of St. Genevieve have for us. Their faith in God is amazing, and their ability to love freely is contagious.”

He added that the next generation of St. Patrick-St. Anthony parishioners is already involved in the partnership, noting that a young girl making her first Communion donated all her gift money to help the children at St. Genevieve.

The idea of a “twinning” relationship began in October 2002 as a response to globalization. According to the parish’s Web site, St. Patrick-St. Anthony chose Haiti because of its status as the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere and the seriousness of its economic, education, health and social problems, as well as the significant Haitian immigration population in the United States, including Hartford.

A covenant between St. Patrick-St. Anthony and St. Genevieve was signed in December 2004 and February 2005. Mike said St. Patrick-St. Anthony will be renewing the covenant in fall 2009, with the hope that Fr. Frixner Jean Francois, of St. Genevieve, can come to Connecticut for the celebration.

In addition to the Taste and Haitian cookbook, the parish also organizes an Advent Global Giving Tree and has helped fund and build a new rectory for St. Genevieve and as many as 50 houses in the Port-au-Prince area.

“The beauty of the community of St. Patrick-St. Anthony is its diversity in programs, ministries and interests, and the generosity of time and money of our parishioners,” Mike said. “It is wonderful to see an overlap of the Sister Parish Committee with other committees such as Liturgy and Religious Education. It is truly seeing God working in all of us.”

— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.