By Christina Galeone | CFP Correspondent
Relationships are key to twinning between parishes here and in Haiti.
So is the annual Partners in Charity Appeal.
These were among messages proclaimed last month as St. Mary’s in Shrewsbury welcomed the pastor of its twin parish, St. Michel’s in Roche-a-Bateau, Haiti. Father Serge Denis, who was visiting from the Les Cayes Diocese, spoke after St. Mary’s Masses and greeted parishioners at a reception.
With translation assistance from Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, director of the Worcester Diocese’s Haitian Apostolate, he thanked St. Mary’s for its generosity and prayers.
The Gospel reading that day was from John 4. In it Jesus says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
The twinning is one way the Haitian Apostolate shares that “water” with people in need.
“This is, for me, the main essence of the Apostolate,” Sister Marie-Judith said about the twinning that has generated prayers, funds, missionary work and fellowship to help St. Michel’s, devastated by Hurricane Matthew in early October 2016. She said this is a ministry where God changes hearts and people change hearts; “it’s a ministry where the Holy Spirit is working 100 percent behind every single Christian.”
Sister Marie-Judith is grateful for the help the Apostolate gets to do its ministry.
“If it wasn’t for Partners in Charity, we wouldn’t exist,” she said. “Partners in Charity is our well, because if it wasn’t for Partners in Charity, we would not be able to have this twinning.”
The Apostolate facilitates the twinning between parishes in the Worcester and Les Cayes dioceses, which have a covenant with each other. It also serves in other ways.
After Hurricane Matthew, it provided funds, food, over-the-counter medication, water purification tablets and more for Haitians in dire circumstances. Along with St. Mary’s and other churches, it has been helping them to re-build homes and buildings.
The Apostolate also has an adopt-a-student program and an annual collection of backpacks filled with school supplies to help meet children’s educational needs. At Christmas, it even throws parties for the children. Among gifts are dresses made by St. Columba’s Haitian Sewing Ministry in Paxton.
“What I like the most in the ministry is to see the generosity … when people have the need, and parishes in Worcester responded so greatly and so faithfully!” said Sister Marie-Judith, who is a Sister of St. Anne and a native of Haiti. “And they really care so much. It’s unbelievable. In this ministry, it’s not money-sending. No. Haitian Apostolate is a hand-in-hand: hand-in-hand with your partner. We work together.”
Msgr. Michael F. Rose, St. Mary’s pastor, appreciates that fellowship. For him, bringing “a face to the experience” was an important part of Father Denis’ visit. He invited Father Denis after seeing photos of Hurricane Matthew’s devastation, and after St. Mary’s raised funds for repairs of buildings, including a rectory, a convent and a school.
“It helps us look forward to a trip that we hope to make in May,” Msgr. Rose said. “We were originally going to go to Haiti in the fall … and we had to delay it. When we see people, and when Sister Judith is here, it helps to strengthen that bond that we have with the people of St. Michel’s.”
Lynn Perreault and Charlie Eisenmann couldn’t agree more. The St. Mary parishioners have been involved with the twinning for several years, and they’ve traveled to Haiti with the church a couple of times. Both are looking forward to returning in May.
While Mr. Eisenmann joined the church’s twinning committee because of an interest in combatting global poverty, it was the Haitian Apostolate that inspired Ms. Perreault.
“I heard Sister Judith speak once…and she was very moving, and I thought to myself ‘I need to get involved with this,’” recalled Ms. Perreault.
For her, one of the most gratifying parts of Father Denis’ visit was the chance for parishioners to meet him and to see how St. Mary’s has helped its sister parish. For Mr. Eisenmann, it was gratifying to see Father Denis and Sister Marie-Judith inspiring parishioners. Ms. Perreault and Mr. Eisenmann agree that relationships are key to the successful twinning.
“Hopefully, we can go down there and help, not just economically, but kind of build a personal bond as well,” said Mr. Eisenmann. “In my mind … it’s not really about going down there and doing something – although we do that. It’s just about making a personal connection.”
Father Denis too cherishes that connection and the Haitian Apostolate.
“The relationship between St. Mary’s and St. Michel’s Parish and the love between the two of them really shows that we are in the image of the Lord,” he said. “Despite our differences, the parish of St. Mary’s shows all the time we are one. We are no different, really, as Christians. In the difficulties we’re going through, they show us their love, and they show us they are with us.”
But while Father Denis is thankful for support from the Haitian Apostolate and St. Mary’s, his heart goes out to other parishes in his diocese that don’t have twin parishes. He and Sister Marie-Judith both expressed hope that parishes here will follow the example of St. Mary’s and work with the Haitian Apostolate.
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