Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Apr
  • 26

Come to Haiti

Posted By April 26, 2012 | 12:59 pm | Lead Story #1
haiti 0373WEB

By Tanya Connor

“It’s poor; it’s dirty; I’m going to change it.”
That’s what people here sometimes think as they prepare for a trip to Haiti, says Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, a Haitian herself.
“I laugh in my heart,” says the Sister of St. Anne who directs the Worcester Diocesan Haitian Apostolate.
“You just don’t know what God is preparing for you in his own plan,” she thinks.
Taking people to Haiti to see apostolate projects is part of what Sister Judith does.
Anyone interested in learning more about these projects – and tasting Haitian food, coffee and beer – is invited to attend Haiti Solidarity Night May 12 at St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury. There is no charge for the Haiti Solidarity Month event, which is to begin at 2 p.m. and feature the Haitian buffet at 2:30 p.m., presentations from twinning parishes at 3:30 p.m. and Mass with Bishop McManus at 4:30 p.m. Sister Judith said she is inviting a Haitian choir from Mattapan to sing.
She said the Saturday event starts early so priests can come before their parishes’ Masses, and those who can stay can concelebrate with Bishop McManus. Even if pastors can’t come, she encourages twinning parishes to send a representative, and other parishes to send an inquirer.
Those considering twinning, sponsoring a Haitian student, visiting Haiti or otherwise contributing can listen to her overall presentation and the local twin parishes’ presentations about their specific projects, visit those parishes’ information booths and ask questions. Sister Judith said other booths are to give information about the apostolate’s Adopt-a-Student program and Olivia Willis’ “Have a Heart for Haiti” program.
Olivia, an 11-year-old from St. Joseph the Good Provider Parish in Berlin, started raising money for Haiti with fellow students at her former school, St. Bernadette’s in Northborough. This evolved into collecting backpacks and items to fill them, for which she now solicits the help of fellow religious education students at her parish and people at her new school, Florence Sawyer School in Bolton, said her mother, Julie Willis. She said Carolyn Schmidt, a kindergarten teacher there, helps her.
Last summer 36 backpacks Olivia collected were sent to Haiti. Sister Judith said this week that she just shipped Olivia’s next 81 backpacks. Mrs. Willis said Olivia also raised $3,000 for shipping and other needs. Sister Judith said plans are under way for Olivia and her mother to go with her to Haiti to distribute these backpacks.
Sister Judith said she encouraged twin parishes here to hold an event like Haiti Solidarity Night in their own parishes for parishioners who cannot attend May 12.
St. Thomas-a-Becket Parish in South Barre and St. Joseph Parish in Barre are doing that at 7 p.m. May 9 in St. Joseph’s hall, but they’re also inviting their whole deanery and other Christian churches, said Victoria King, one of the organizers. Anyone interested is welcome.
Called “A Taste of Haiti,” the evening is to feature a sampling of Haitian food, displays, a video of projects in Haiti and a talk by Sister Judith. The event is free, but those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Barbara Nordstrom at 978-355-4295, Barbara Potter at 978-355-4931 or Pat Kowal at pierogi77@charter.net.
St. Thomas-a-Becket twins with Ecole Mains Ouvertes, a school in Les Cayes.
Twelve other parishes (10 in the Worcester Diocese, one in North Hampton and one in Lakewood, Wash.,) twin with parishes or schools in the Les Cayes Diocese through the Worcester diocesan apostolate, according to Sister Judith. Religious education students in two other local parishes sponsor several Haitian students, she said.
Sister Judith said she encourages twins here to send representatives to visit their Haitian twins.
“It is important for the people in Haiti to see the visitors coming in and have the sense of connection with them,” she said. “I’m not there to just say, ‘Send money.’ The Haitian people feel very proud you can leave your nice bed, your nice car, your nice road, and come to see them.”
The Americans benefit too.
“I’m always happy to accompany people to their sister parish,” Sister Judith said. She makes it like a retreat, starting with a prayer service at which the travelers’ hands and foreheads are anointed, she said.
“Why is that?” she asked. “Remember, people go to Haiti with all their plans they’re going to do. You work, of course, but the first thing is, you come to meet Jesus in the poor. The poor have something to share with the more fortunate that money will never give to you. Whatever we are going to do today should be in relationship to the Holy Spirit. This is a blessed land where the poor are living. This is a holy land.”
At night, the travelers share their experiences with each other. Sister Judith says they find that the poor share their simplicity, hospitality and faith.
“They are so happy to see you come, they will be happy to give you everything they have,” she says. They sing heartily at Mass, to which they walk, even from far away, some carrying their shoes to keep them clean for church. In their nice, pressed clothes, they are better dressed than many American churchgoers are, one traveler observed.
“In Haitian culture we are very proud of our exterior things, but we tend to hide our hunger,” Sister Judith explains. “We all have shoes to go to Mass. You have your sandals to go to the market. We are really proud of who we are. That’s why sometimes I feel hurt by the way people try to show Haiti’s face just to make money.”
But those who visit, marvel at how nice Haitians look, she says.
They make these eye-opening visits through the Haitian Apostolate, which the annual Partners in Charity Appeal funds. The diocesan 2011 annual financial report says the apostolate received $54,671 from Partners. Sister Judith said that because Partners pays her salary and operating costs, she can send 100 percent of the donations she receives to Haiti.
The annual Partners in Charity Appeal reports reaching 66 percent of  this year’s goal of $5 million.
According to Michael P. Gillespie, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, as of noon Wednesday the drive had received gifts and pledges totaling $3,280,904, putting it ahead of last year’s fund-raising pace. Last year at this time the drive had received $3,136,149, or 63 percent, he said.
Eleven parishes have reached or exceeded their goals so far, he said.
He expressed his “deepest gratitude and appreciation” to all pastors and lay committees for their leadership. “Clearly we still need thousands more to reach our combined goal of $5 million,” he said.
“How true it is, ‘many hands make the burden light,’ and with your help we can ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate,” Mr. Gillespie said.

 

PHOTO courtesy of Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy
Msgr. Michael F. Rose, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury, meets Jesus in the poor in Haiti last fall.