Catholic Free Press

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  • Feb
  • 13

Adding a thread to the faith community

Posted By February 13, 2015 | 5:16 pm | Featured Article #3
Photo by Tanya Connor
Women dance up the aisle in St. Joseph’s Church in Worcester before the Gospel reading at Sunday’s Mass to inaugurate ministry to Haitians in the Worcester Diocese. Leading is Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, Haitian Apostolate director, followed by Marie G. Lucien, of St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, and Marie Ernestine Pierre, partly visible, who is in the Worcester Diocese’s education program in Haiti. She was here to apply to Worcester Academy.
Photo by Tanya Connor Women dance up the aisle in St. Joseph’s Church in Worcester before the Gospel reading at Sunday’s Mass to inaugurate ministry to Haitians in the Worcester Diocese. Leading is Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, Haitian Apostolate director, followed by Marie G. Lucien, of St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, and Marie Ernestine Pierre, partly visible, who is in the Worcester Diocese’s education program in Haiti. She was here to apply to Worcester Academy.

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – Sunday’s official beginning of ministry to Haitians in the Worcester Diocese excited Haitians – and members of Holy Family Parish who welcomed them, remembering their own history.
Bishop McManus inaugurated the ministry by celebrating Mass in French at Holy Family’s church, St. Joseph’s, at 35 Hamilton St. Concelebrating was the pastor, Father Steven M. LaBaire, who is to celebrate Mass in French each Sunday at 2 p.m.
Close to 100 people attended, including members of the Haitian choir from St. Angela Parish in Mattapan, who sang in French, Creole, Spanish  and Latin.
“This is just one attempt on the part of the Diocese to reach out to new immigrants that have not really been attended to,” Bishop McManus told The Catholic Free Press, noting that Pope Francis has asked the Church to reclaim its missionary roots.
In his homily in French, the bishop welcomed the Haitians. He spoke of the importance of culture, family and the Eucharist and sounded Pope Francis’ call to go out to the periphery to evangelize.
“I would say that the celebration expressed in a unique way the universality, the catholicity of our faith,” Father LaBaire said. “Around the altar were gathered the children of French-Canadian immigrants, Haitians and French-speaking Africans, each bringing a distinct thread into the fabric of the faith community.” Flags of Canada, Haiti, France, the United States and the Vatican were carried in procession.
Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, Haitian Apostolate director and a Sister of St. Anne, said she told the congregation about the twinning and education programs between the dioceses of Worcester and Les Cayes in Haiti, for which she’s planning a 25th anniversary celebration in May.
As a celebration of relationship between the dioceses, an icon was given to Bishop McManus from Haiti’s Cardinal Chibly Langlois. The icon was presented by Jeanne Roselie Lubin, who was visiting from Haiti, and Stevenson Vincent of the Haitian community here.
After Mass a Haitian meal was served. Evelyne Dupuy made a cake adorned with symbols representing the sacraments to be received by the Haitian community.
“I think it’s wonderful,” James Izatt said of the Haitians coming to Holy Family, a parish he joined about 15 years ago. “We had twinned with the Haitian community, and now they’re going to find a home with us.”
“It was like a dream come true” because many Haitians have left the Church for various reasons, Haitian Marie G. Lucien said of having the Mass. She said she will be involved at Holy Family, and also remain at St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, where she sings in the choir.
“It was a beautiful Mass,” said Laurette Bozil, a Haitian who said she’ll come to Holy Family and remain at Our Lady of Loreto, where she now worships. “I think we’re going to have more Haitian people come.”
“It’s the best thing – our language, our people, the family, everybody,” said Genevieve Georges, who’s been at St. Joan of Arc Parish but now plans to attend Holy Family. “When people come together, God is happy.”
“I can’t help but think my great aunts and grandparents would be really happy to see what they toiled for could be passed on to another culture,” said Stephen St. Denis, of Holy Family. He said his mother’s family – immigrants from Quebec and New Brunswick – came in the 1800s to what was then St. Joseph Parish.
The church building was closed for a time in the 1990s because it needed costly repairs. But an uprising by parishioners eventually saved it.
In 1992, Bishop Harrington merged St. Joseph and Notre Dame des Canadiens parishes and designated Notre Dame as the worship site, since St. Joseph’s had structural damage. Seeking to save St. Joseph’s, parishioners and other supporters occupied the building for 13 months until Bishop Harrington won a court battle and had police escort them out in June 1993.
Bishop Reilly reopened St. Joseph’s Church in 1996 as a second worship site for the Notre Dame/St. Joseph Parish. In 2008, St. Joseph’s became the sole worship site when Bishop McManus merged Notre Dame/St. Joseph with Holy Name of Jesus Parish to form the current Holy Family Parish.
“I said, ‘Our culture is going to fade and go away if we don’t show an interest in it,’” said Mr. St. Denis who was involved in those first efforts to save St. Joseph’s. “So I really applaud the Haitian community for wanting to worship together as a group to maintain their language. …
“I’m very proud of my French-Canadian roots, but that does not stand in the way of embracing any other culture. We can celebrate our own culture and other cultures side by side.”
He said he loved the dance Sister Judith led before the Gospel reading. The Sisters of St. Anne, he noted, had a strong presence in the French-Canadian community in Worcester.
He said Father LaBaire has really wanted to make a connection with the past, and the parish is going forward, with the welcoming of the Haitians as part of that.
Part of that welcome was giving the Haitian community free tickets to the parish’s Mardi Gras celebration Feb. 14, said David Desroches.
“What I feel is great excitement,” he said of the Haitians coming to the parish. He said he hoped the “natural link with the French heritage” will overcome any barriers.
“As soon as that choir started up and they started swaying,” he felt lifted up, though he doesn’t understand French, he said.
Vijai Croos, who joined Holy Family three years ago after coming here from his native Sri Lanka, also said he didn’t understand the words, but enjoyed the music.
Terry Turgeon said she loved hearing the French, which she can understand, and enjoyed the music.
“What an exciting day,” she said. “I think this is something we’ve been waiting for for a long time: new growth, new people, new community, new life.”
“I think it was nice that Father invited them,” said Mary Sanning, Holy Family’s director of religious education. “I’m thinking that it’s going to take time for us to solidify this as their home. There’s so much energy and enthusiasm with the Haitian community. I’m hoping we’ll be able to incorporate them into our ministries.”