Ministries Help Haitian Cause

Kevin McGarr In the Headlines

Nearly six months ago, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the island nation of Haiti. Estimates by the Haitian government report that 230,000 died, 300,000 were injured and 1,000,000 were left homeless.

In response to the January 12 tragedy, friars and partners-in-ministry from Massachusetts to Florida have helped raise money and supplies to help the Haitians cope. They have offered their time, talent and treasure, and some have even traveled to Haiti to personally lend a hand.

Hartford’s “Taste of Haiti”
Last month, the Urban Ministry Center of the St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., held its sixth annual “Taste of Haiti” celebration. The event raised roughly $5,000, bringing St. Patrick-St. Anthony’s total fundraising for 2010 to more than $140,000.

With the help of Michael Jones, OFM, the parish established a sister parish program in 2004 with St. Genevieve parish in Zoranje, Haiti.

A 4:00 p.m. vigil Mass on June 5 began the evening, where several Haitian hymns were incorporated in the Mass.

More than 200 attendees listened to Haitian music played by a DJ, while enjoying delicacies including grilled pork, macaroni and cheese, skewers of tropical fruit, rice and beans, rum and orange cake, and pumpkin soup.

The friars and partners-in-ministry from St. Anthony Shrine in Boston helped raise and donate money, which is included in the $140,000. The money will help provide food, medicine and shelter to people in Zoranje and other parts of Haiti who were affected by the January earthquake.

It will also subsidize tuition for the 400 children who attend the parish school, pay for the teachers’ salaries and provide a lunch for the students five days a week for the 10-month school year. The parishes of St. Patrick-St. Anthony, whose pastor is Thomas Gallagher, OFM, and St. Genevieve, whose pastor is Frixner Jean Francios, are planning to build a new, earthquake-proof church in Zoranje.

The seventh annual “Taste of Haiti” is planned for June 4, 2011.

Colleges Scholarships and Support
Siena College, in Loudonville, N.Y., recently granted academic scholarships to three Haitian refugees.

“Hope for Haiti,” as 30-year-old Pierre-Louis Joizil calls the student group, will live with professor Thomas Coohill, while completing their degrees.

Esperandieu Cenat, 32, is a business administration major, who hopes to open an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital that was devastated by the January earthquake.

Canes Camil, 27, is an electrical engineering major, and is working to bring power to Haiti’s rural provinces. He also has tutored children in English.

Joizil, a marketing and management major, is in the beginning stages of opening a high school in his province of North Fontain Pignon, where he used to walk three hours to school.

“We were happy to welcome these students,” said Siena president Kevin Mullen, OFM, adding that guardianBrian Bellanger, OFM, was “instrumental in making the arrangements.”

According to a June 21 Times Union article, the students will live in a ranch-style house in Loudonville complete with a dishwasher, icemaker, and even a robotic vacuum that automatically cleans the floors — conveniences that seem trivial to Americans, but are viewed as luxuries to the Haitians.

The other college sponsored by the Province, St. Bonaventure University, in Allegany, N.Y., is also dedicated to helping people affected by natural disasters.

Earlier this year, students Phil Penepent, Rob Ryer and T.J. Rosetti traveled to Leogane, Haiti, where they stayed with a Hands of Disaster Response group and helped rebuild homes and spent time with Haitian children.

The three hope to continue to raise awareness and money for Haiti in conjunction with BonaResponds, a volunteer organization affiliated with the university.

Midtown Manhattan’s Travels
In April, three parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi Church, on West 31st Street, participated in the National Organization for Victim Assistance Hope for Haiti’s 10th medical mission in Cavaillon, Haiti.

Junior Joseph, Jocelyne Lamour and pastoral associate Joseph Nuzzi joined a 27-member team that consisted of doctors, nurses, translators and other volunteers.

The team set up a makeshift clinic and, with the help of a Haitian Creole translator, was able to treat more than 1,200 patients in five days.

According to an essay from one volunteer, the volunteers — strangers to each other at the beginning of the week — were brought together by “hard, but fulfilling work, a spirit of giving and generosity, and a sheer love for humanity.”

Florida’s Musical Fundraiser
This spring, Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland, Fla., held a “Battle of the Bands” to help raise relief money for Haiti.

Michael Kutner, a junior at Santa Fe Catholic High School, organized the event with the help of Paul Santoro, OFM, the campus minister.

Three bands performed at the event, as well as five students and one teacher, who shared their talent by reciting poetry, singing and performing an original instrumental.

The evening was highlighted by a speech given by Mrs. Jean-Pierre, a woman who came to Lakeland to be with her family after she lost five relatives to the earthquake, said Paul. Her son, Clarens, is currently a sophomore at Santa Fe Catholic High School.

The March 26 event raised nearly $1,000, which was sent to Catholic Relief Services.

“A Heart For Haiti”
Earlier in the year, a child affiliated with one of the Province’s campus ministry programs initiated a project that took advantage of the season and helped earthquake victims in Haiti.

Cardy Pennington, a fourth grader at Athens Academy in Athens, Ga., started “A Heart For Haiti” with the intention of making more than just a small donation. The 10-year-old quickly raised $700 in 24 hours by selling homemade Valentine’s Day cards outside weekend Masses at the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia, where Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, is director.

After hearing about “A Heart For Haiti,” 17 fraternities and sororities affiliated with the University of Georgia agreed to help sell the cards to help the Haitians.

There are currently over 150 different designs, created by over 50 children.

All donations made to “A Heart for Haiti” are given directly to St. Boniface Hospital in Fond des Blancs, Haiti. St. Boniface Hospital was not affected by the earthquake and immediately began treating victims of the disaster.

haiti-r1Parish Projects
At churches around the Province, collaborative fundraising and prayer continue.

St. Mary’s Church in Obernburg, N.Y., raised money for relief effort in Haiti through a second collection at all Masses.

According to pastor Joseph Juracek, OFM, $500 was raised and given to Catholic Relief Services, the organization recommended by the Provincial Administration in January as the most appropriate charity to which to donate.

In New York City, the parishes of The Central Harlem Vicariate hold a prayer service on or near the 12th of each month for the people of Haiti. It is rotated among the churches, Rice High School, Handmaids of Mary and the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Community Center on West 134th Street, said Steven Pavignano, OFM, pastor of All Saints Church on East 129th Street.

Whether a dozen people are participating in a prayer service or hundreds are raising money, the Franciscan communities are making a difference.

— Kevin McGarr is a summer intern in the Province’s Communications Office.

Editor’s note: HNP Today welcomes news from other ministries about how they are helping people in areas affected by natural disasters.