By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
MILFORD – People at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish got a personal update from their sister parish in Haiti.
A delegation from Sacré Coeur Parish in Les Cayes visited Massachusetts Dec. 10-14. The pastor, Father Jean-Alfred Bernard, and two parish council members, Pierre Antoine Borgella and Rose Adeline Tarthe, came.
Father Bernard concelebrated the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass with St. Mary’s pastor, Father Raymond M. Goodwin Jr. He and Deacon David F. Vaillancourt Sr., who serves there, welcomed the guests.
Father Goodwin told the congregation he believed the Haitians’ message would help them live God’s word, and urged them not to just look and hear but “receive the presence of God this day.”
A video was then shown of the congregation and property of Sacré Coeur in the wake of October’s Hurricane Matthew, with some footage shot from above with the help of a drone. In the video Father Bernard thanked St. Mary’s, especially for the inverter they’d raised money for. It helped Sacré Coeur get power from its generator when most of the city lost electricity as a result of the hurricane.
In a prayer, Father Goodwin said his parishioners could see the face of Haiti more clearly.
“It’s not just a distant place,” he said. “We’re so hungry, not for our stomachs but for your body and blood.” As the congregation prepared to receive the Eucharist, he spoke of being united with their sister parish, which would also be celebrating Mass.
“Your parish … has been twinning just over 20 years,” Father Bernard said in a talk he gave after Communion. “We’re very happy to be here today to resume our relationship with you.”
He thanked the clergy and faithful of St. Mary’s, mentioning their good wishes and financial contributions.
He told about Hurricane Matthew’s damage, but said the community has been vibrant and alive and continues to manifest its faith. With the help of God and St. Mary’s, it can be raised up again to continue the mission in the midst of God’s people, he said.
“They’re wonderful,” St. Mary’s parishioner Mary Borden said after meeting the visitors. “And we have supported their church many years.”
Speaking of the video she said, “People saying that to you is not the same as seeing it on the screen.… It’s so important to let people know what they’re going through.”
Deacon Vaillancourt translated Father Bernard’s talk at Mass and helped translate the video commentary ahead of time.
He told The Catholic Free Press that he got to practice his French when he visited Sacré Coeur in December 2014, several months after Father Bernard became pastor there. It was the first time in several years that someone from St. Mary’s had been there, he said.
In 2013 Sacré Coeur’s previous pastor, Msgr. Jacques-Antoine Coulanges, came here for the signing of the covenant between the Les Cayes and Worcester Dioceses, Deacon Vaillancourt said. He also concelebrated Masses at St. Mary’s.
Since his trip to Haiti, Deacon Vaillancourt said, St. Mary’s has been trying to get Father Bernard and some of his parishioners here for a visit. This was the time that worked for them.
They came in time for their first experience of snow.
They also reported on projects done with St. Mary’s support and reordered priorities for future projects in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Deacon Vaillancourt said. He said Father Bernard had done much homework before they came and gave cost estimates.
The visitors attended a St. Mary’s parish council meeting and pot luck supper, the deacon said. They visited the parish’s cemeteries, and Milford Catholic Elementary School and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Milford. In Worcester they went to the Haitian Apostolate Office in the Chancery, The Catholic Free Press and St. Paul Cathedral. Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, cathedral rector, had stoles for Father Bernard from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.
“This is the essence of twinning: You go, I go,” Sister Marie-Judith Dupuy, the Sister of St. Anne who directs the Worcester Diocesan Haitian Apostolate, commented. She explained that a Creole proverb speaks of such visits back and forth as the essence of a good relationship.