On Saturday, May 11, we had our May Crowning with the Faith Formation classes. The day was sunny and, of course, hot but a beautiful day for Our Lady. The way we chose the crowner was to see who had a birthday in May. Julianna raised her hand in excitement. Julianna is a little girl who has been cross-eyed since birth. She actually sees double. This does not stop her from doing anything. We knew this had to be a first-time event for her. The children prepared their song, “Ave Maria” to sing during the Crowning. The procession began with delight.
When Julianna crowned Our Lady, she was so holy and beautiful that it looked as if Mary was speaking to her heart.
These are small joys that say to us: “It is good for us to be here.” Mt. 17:4
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!
On Friday nights, after a week of school, the kids love coming to the movies. Tonight was LILO and STITCH. Some endure the whole thing and others fall asleep!
Here in Jacmel, there are so many ways we experience the power of the Risen Jesus in our midst. There are times when we feel just like the apostles after the crucifixion, a feeling of lost hope and sadness because of situations that we see here among the poor. Yet, as the power of the resurrection has shown us many times on this journey, God transforms the impossible and makes things possible. Or, when we have worked and tried to walk with someone that chooses the other direction where there is loss, no life and death, we ask ourselves where did we go wrong in our mission, our witness, our accompaniment? The Lord once again gave us this experience, and we were asked once again to believe there is new life in Christ.
Her name is Joanna. When we met her, she was about 14 years old. How much she wanted to go to school! But she had such a hard time with the way our accompaniment challenged her. If we would sponsor her schooling, she would need to “pay it forward” with some kind of work with us. For years, we would challenge her with this idea. If she did not work, we would not pay the installments. If we did not see her progress and were not in relationship, we would not continue. She would try to change each time, and another chance would be given.
Joanna is now 18 years old. She was being sponsored this year and was working here in the mission with our kids, assisting and tutoring with homework. As the months went by, Joanna was looking sadder and sadder. She would would be on her phone a lot, and we would once again challenge her to be in relationship with her students. She was part of the Youth Choir for our Dedication in October. Then, when we prepared for Christmas, she was not around. She wanted to be in the play, but she never showed up for rehearsal nor for Christmas Day.
Then, as the new year began and all were returning to school, we heard Joanna was not returning to school because she was pregnant. She never told us, but we saw her brothers and her mother. She is indeed pregnant. Finally, during Lent when we returned to Jacmel, we contacted her. She came over and told us she was 6 months pregnant. She was very big, and we thought it must be more than 6 months. We had prenatal vitamins for her and welcomed her. We offered her our presence and, most of all, hope. The father of the child was at the time visiting her, but he is in school.
Joanna suffers from anemia. Over the Easter Triduum, she called us saying she was in the hospital and in need of blood. Here in Haiti, if a family member does not offer to give their blood, you find someone and pay them for it. We knew we could not do it after our surgeries and circumstances. On Easter Monday, we went to see Joanna in the hospital (see Monday, April 20 blog) and saw for ourselves that her ankles were swollen and she looked depressed. She was in need of a sonogram and other medications for an IV drip, but she did not have the money. So as is done here in Haiti, we had to go to the pharmacy and buy the IV and medication, then come back to Joanna and have the nurse give it to her. We also paid for the sonogram which was $50 USD. Joanna looked so very sad. We knew she was sick, but she was sad for another reason–the father of the child had not come to see her and was showing signs he wanted nothing to do with the situation. He has school. This seems to be the problem in many circumstances when a teen girl gets pregnant. Thank God, Joanna has her mother who is trying to assist her!
After a few days, Joanna had the sonogram. We got a call that it was not enough, and we wondered why. Well, Joanna is having twin girls. Another $50 USD was needed, and she then had the second sonogram. The last message we heard from her is that they want to do a caesarean due to her high blood pressure, water retention, rapid heart beat. This was supposed to be done last Saturday, but the doctor never came to do it. So, we do not know what will be happening next. We wait in hope and seek peace for Joanna as we seek to share the Risen Lord and his mercy. Isn’t this what the resurrection of Jesus is all about? He enters our lives to bring us hope and peace, not judgment and condemnation. Joanna’s life is being changed every day. We remember her in our prayers and try our best to accompany her on this journey, which is so very scary for her in such a poor country where medical care is at its minimum.
We try to walk with these young mothers who literally have nothing to live on and nothing for their newborn babies. But where there is life, there is hope; and we seek to share this hope in this mission among God’s people. Here is Galilee; here is Jerusalem…go there and you will see me says the Lord!
We have living stations of the cross as we remember how Jesus suffered and died, and we also believe we have the living resurrection in our midst. The resurrection of Jesus is alive and seen in so many circumstances here. The resurrection assured us that life does not end; it changes and we have hope. We dwell in hope because we know that the best is yet to come. The resurrection gives us hope and confidence for the future. There is hope that we can have joy and peace in the midst of the despair. There is hope that there will come a new heaven and a new earth. There is hope of eternal life. Our hope comes from the resurrection of Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).
Today we were able to give witness to this hope and to bring hope. You may remember a week or so ago, we shared with you Vilcia’s story and her diagnosis of malaria. She had the medication, but she was getting weaker. Dr. Yves, the director of the Mother Angela Clinic called her last week to see how she was…no better. He surmised it may be something else, maybe TB. So Vilcia went to the hospital to be tested. Sure enough, she tested positive. She is now taking medication, but all who visit her must wear a mask. As we made our Easter resurrection visit and prayed with her, we saw a woman so weak who before had a bit of strength. All we kept saying in our prayer over her was–In the name Jesus Christ who is risen, be healed. It made the resurrection even more real for us today.
“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants, I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.” (Taken from Holy Saturday Homily)
Yes, we are waiting for the great Vigil of vigils. Traditions are kept here with the coloring of eggs and the blessing of the Easter foods.
Seeing the Easter tables from all sides.
Fr. Valcin blessed the food. He has done this for us for the past few years.
Giving Fr. Valcin a homemade babka.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you; because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world. Early in the morning, at 6:30 a.m., the people of Jacmel gather to begin our pilgrimage with the Lord and His holy Cross. It is a spiritual experience to watch and pray.
The journey is like being in Jerusalem, with people even selling things from the market. Others were watching the crowd from rooftops and listening to the singing and prayers as we gave witness to our Christian Faith.
As we participate in these days and know the situation of today, we ask God for mercy and peace. May we see an end to all violence that prevails in this country. As we walked the way, these words came to mind:
“Finally, taking up your cross and being willing to give up your life means living in a faith that believes that nothing is impossible for God. As James Martin puts it, this means accepting that God is greater than the human imagination. Indeed, whenever we succumb to the notion that God cannot offer us a way out of our pain into some kind of newness, it’s precisely because we have reduced God down to the size of our own limited imagination. It’s possible to accept our cross, to live in trust, and to not grow bitter inside pain only if we believe in possibilities beyond what we can imagine; namely, if we believe in the resurrection.”
The Passion and the Cross