HARTFORD, Conn. — Earlier this year, eight parishioners from St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church here participated in a 10-day “immersion” trip to Haiti. They visited the sister parish of St. P & A, St. Genevieve Church near Port-au-Prince with which the parishioners have had a “twinning” relationship since 2004.
One of the participants, Thomas Sliney, a vice president with the Trust Company of Connecticut, wrote about his experience for a local newspaper. His “Trip to Haitii makes Third World Real” appeared in the June 11, 2007 issue of The Journal Inquirer.
In the article, Thomas, shown at right, wrote:
“I can’t say that I always wanted to go to Haiti. It was a place I had heard about, but mostly in connection with boat people desperately trying to reach U.S. shores and escape terrible conditions at home — usually without success.
“It was through my church, St. Patrick-St. Anthony in downtown Hartford, that I learned more. St. P&A, as it is known, began “twinning” with St. Genevieve, a Catholic church in a rural mountain village outside Port-au-Prince in December 2004. “Why Haiti?” I asked: “Because it’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and a lot closer than countries in Africa that are worse off,” was the answer. Good reasons, I thought.
“St. P&A has sent annual delegations four times since then, in addition to providing regular financial support. I was one of eight parishioners who visited Haiti, from Feb. 5-14 of this year, to participate in a 10-day “immersion” trip that provided a glimpse into the lives and culture of Haiti and its people. These are run by the Office of Haitian Ministries of the Diocese of Norwich, which itself twins with the diocese of Port-au-Prince.
“With the mission of “Helping Haitians Help Haitians,” the OHM, through its Norwich Mission House in Port-au-Prince, provides financial and other support to organizations in and around the city to help those most in need. This assistance covers a broad range of programs including agricultural projects, business development programs, schools, and meal programs for children.
“I struggled with the decision to go to Haiti. I was unsure what I could really contribute.
In hindsight, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was a gift. The plight of the poor is real to me now. The complexity of their problems is more apparent. Their suffering is concrete. The “Third World” is no longer an abstraction.”
Holy Name Province encourages parishes to “twin”, according to Russell Testa, director of Holy Name’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
“If Franciscan ministries are to be effective evangelizers of the world, as is their calling, it means paying attention to the context of our world,” Russell said. “In today’s world, the key idea is globalization, an interconnected world. For this, twinning is one of the best ways for Franciscans to build connecting relationships — Relationships that can be transformative.”