No matter what the circumstances that are before us we must always give thanks with grateful hearts for the blessings and challenges because God is always with us! We have been blest these past 10 years to be able to participate in the Kingdom of God in Jacmel, Haiti. So we have done what was commanded us to do to give thanks for the many people who accompany us on this journey with our Haitian sisters and brothers.
“But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own.
We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us…” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
“Something that happens and has not been told ceases to exist and dies. ” (Olga Tokarczuk, Polish writer and poet)
Certainly, we do not want the truth about the recent events and reality of life of our Haitian brothers and sisters to cease to exist and die. Still, with broken hearts and overwhelmed by mourning, we write our story. You can read about the gangs and the political situation in the Miami Herald, Haitian Times or Haiti Libre. But we want to tell you our story.
We returned from Haiti on Tuesday, October 11. From this small perspective, we see that what happened on Monday and Tuesday of that week, the days of our travel, was a miracle of God’s providence and the power of prayer of so many people. For this we are grateful!
For over two years, the situation in Haiti has been getting worse and life has been very difficult. After the assassination of the President in July, 2021 it spiraled daily and became worse. Gang violence, kidnappings, rape, senseless killing of innocent people, including children. The gangs were controlling many parts of Port au Prince, the capitol. This violence displaced many families who were forced out of their homes to live in tents in mountain areas. This is the sad reality of Port au Prince. We always heard about it and prayed. We worried only when we needed to fly through Port au Prince to return to the USA. However, then the situation changed and Jacmel started to experience demonstrations that were becoming violent.
Since August, there has been no way to do any group activities in our mission. People were coming to the sewing school, our youth who have jobs in the mission and teenagers were coming to eat at different times. Besides dinner, we were giving peanut butter sandwiches and water all day to children and other hungry people who came to our door. We were warned many times not to keep our gate open and not to have groups in our mission. However, in order to feed them, we had to do what we had to do. Every day it was getting more difficult to buy gas, food (even bread), propane gas, drinking water; and prices were rising unbelievably high.
Our Haitian brothers and sisters were gladly buying for us whatever we needed, if this was possible. They would also benefit. They knew that our presence in the city might provoke demonstrators to violence.
The people started to attack everyone who, in their eyes, had something. They would burn cars and motorcycles they met on the street.
On the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, we had some people in the sewing school; and many teenagers were working around the mission and making bracelets. They were coming despite the demonstrations because they knew it was peaceful, and they would be able to eat. At noon ,we all gathered under the tree to say the rosary for peace in Haiti and in the world. Soon after we finished, we received a phone call with a warning that demonstrators were very violent, and the demonstrators had just entered Caritas. It touched us because our Mobil Clinic works under Caritas. The Catholic School and Caritas were looted and ransacked; cars and containers were burned; and those who attacked were furious that some of the food they found was spoiled and had worms in it. Later we heard rumors that the demonstrators were planning to kill the director of Caritas. The week before, the office of the electric company was attacked and destroyed. People have not had electricity provided by the city for months already.
Up to this point, nothing has happened to our mission. Maybe it is because we are not located by the main road like the Salesian Sisters who have a school and are Haitian; or not close to Caritas like the Cluny Sisters, another Haitian community. Maybe it is because of the prayers of +Sr. Victoria Indyk, who buried medals of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in every corner of the buildings during the time our mission was being built. We hope it will stay safe.
We know that the fact we feed and help so many does not say anything to those who attack and destroy. Many other charitable institutions have been attacked and destroyed throughout the country. There seems to be no respect for anyone or anything. In Jacmel, for example, demonstrators took the body of a man who died from tear gas that police used and carried the body from the church to the Police Station, only to raise more hatred and violence. Later, in the same place, people were demonstrating against the USA, waiving a Russian flag and declaring that they do not want the United States or Canada sending military troops to defend them.
After many urgent messages from the US embassy to leave Haiti immediately, and after discerning with our Sisters, we made the decision to return to the USA. We didn’t know when it would be possible. The most difficult part of the journey was to get a little plane from Jacmel to Port au Prince. Not many want to fly to Jacmel because of fear that the plane could be destroyed. You have to go on the day they tell you and at the hour they assign. Our day was Monday, October 10,, feast of Blessed Mary Angela. Arriving at the airport in Jacmel, we were immediately rushed to the plane and left right away because demonstrators were approaching the airport ;and the pilots were afraid the plane would be destroyed. Thank God for our pilot friend, Eric Moyer. Our internet had been scattered and communication was getting more and more difficult. He helped us get a plane out of Port au Prince to the Dominican Republic. The plane had a problem with the generator, and we were afraid they would tell us to get out and stay for the night in Port au Prince. Thank God, they repaired it and we were able to leave. We have friends in Santo Domingo, who met us at the airport and welcomed us to stay overnight in a beautiful retreat house. Then we had standby flights on Tuesday to JFK. Two of us left in the morning and two of us left in the late afternoon.
There are three people staying in our mission: Annette, Jean Philippe and Fritz, our Clinic driver. They continue to do what we were doing for the last two months, mostly feeding hungry or starving people. We left them means to do this, and we will continue to do so. Our mobil clinic works whenever they can. For the poor, it is on some days the only place where they can get help or medications. We were blessed to get medications from the Dominican Republic, thanks to the help of sisters from Santo Domingo and our courageous driver, Fritz, who drove to the border by a long and dangerous road through the mountains. We do not feel we deserted or abandoned our people. We had to make a decision for this moment that was the better one, not only for us, but for our mission to be safe. We knew of how Haitian people were unwelcoming to any outside help to resolve gang problems, and especially, do not want military help from the USA. Finally, we arrived to the States with nothing of our own. We will return there as soon as this will be possible. Pray it is soon.
Each year on the evening of October 3, the Franciscan family throughout the world pauses to celebrate the solemnity of our Holy Father Francis’s Transitus, his passing over from this life to the next.
In his famous Canticle of the Creatures, the saint from Assisi wrote “Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape.” That line, written near Francis’s own embrace of Sister Bodily Death, reflects the importance and natural character of death in the life of all creation. Francis was not afraid of what would come at the end of his earthly life, choosing instead to recognize in that experience, not an end, but a transition from one way of living to another. Br. Thomas of Celano recorded an account of that transition, that transitus:
St. Francis spent the last few days before his death in praising the Lord and teaching his companions whom he loved so much to praise Christ with him. He himself, in as far as he was able, broke out with the Psalm: I cry to the Lord with my voice; to the Lord I make loud supplication. He likewise invited all creatures to praise God and, with the words he had composed earlier, he exhorted them to love God. Even death itself, considered by all to be so terrible and hateful, was exhorted to give praise, while he himself, going joyfully to meet it, invited it to make its abode with him. “Welcome,” he said, “my sister death.” (Celano, Second Life.)
We, too, celebrated this remembrance. Our hearts focused on the situation here in Haiti, the need for conversion and healing, the need to be makers of peace. We all greet you with peace!
“How long, O Lord? I cry for help/ but you do not listen!/ I cry out to you, “Violence!”/ but you do not intervene./ Why do you let me see ruin;/ why must I look at misery?/ Destruction and violence are before me;/there is strife, and clamorous discord./ Then the Lord answered me and said:/ Write down the vision/ clearly upon the tablets,/ so that one can read it readily./ For the vision still has its time,/ presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;/ if it delays, wait for it,/ it will surely come, it will not be late./ The rash one has no integrity;/ but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” Habakkuk 1:1-2,2:1-4
The Word from the Book of Habakkuk is our cry as we plead: “Do something Lord.” ! ask the Lord as the children come to seek peace, nourishment and a sense of belonging.
Junior, Ti fre, (little brother). We met Junior when both his parents were already dead, and his grandmother had taken him in. He then moved from the mountains to Jacmel and lived near our old home. He came to us for meals and for homework. Once he was able to help others, he was eager to engage in our Pay-it-Forward program. In return for help, we paid for his school and English lessons; he did homework with younger children. At the moment, his English is so good that he could find a job as a translator, if only normal life would return to Haiti.
Junior has many talents. He is a barber. We bought him razor blades, and he cuts the hair of all the children who come to us. Later, priests also started using his services, because he does it really well. During one of our visits to the United States, we bought him a hair clipper so that he could possibly start a small business.
Probably Junior’s greatest talent is tailoring. First, he watched a tailor in town; then he started helping him. He asked us to pay for him to go to a tailor’s school. When our sewing school started, he was one of the first to sign up. However, he quickly turned from a student to a teacher, and he helps our Sisters Izajasza and Julitta in teaching others. We bought him a machine; and we support him in various ways, because we can see that a little help produces amazing fruit. He spends the entire holiday making uniforms for children and teenagers in our mission. He lives on the money he earns for the rest of the year. Bravo Junior! We are proud of you!
Peace be with you! We feel we must give you an update on the current situation in Haiti, especially what is happening in Jacmel. Many have been asking us about the effects of Hurricane Fiona. We only had strong winds and a bit of rain.
What Haiti needs now is our prayer and support. The demonstrations and violence are now country-wide, especially these past two weeks. People want the prime minister to leave office. Fuel prices are outrageous, and roads are blocked so no fuel can get anywhere in the country. People are looting, shooting, vandalizing, etc. The crisis of high fuel prices, no water, and no food have people taking to the streets. In another Diocese, north of Port au Prince, a convent and school were vandalized and looted. The same looting and destruction took place at Caritas International.
Every afternoon, we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Each of us is taking an hour of prayer before the Lord to beg for mercy, healing, and resolution to the problems our people are facing.
The violence in Jacmel has escalated with the burning of the Electrical company and some major businesses. During these demonstrations, many are hurt and the city hospital is not functioning. We continue to be very vigilant.
Please pray for the children and young people who are frightened and suffering because of the violence everywhere.
Acts of “dechoukaj” continue, phone and internet disrupted around Haiti – The Haitian Times
— Read on haitiantimes.com/2022/09/17/acts-of-dechoukaj-continue-phone-and-internet-disrupted-around-haiti/
Even though school will not begin until October, kids are coming for the necessities for beginning a new school year. Sister Inga and her helpers are preparing pack packs and supplies.
It was on September 13, 2012, that Sisters Inga and Marilyn, with suitcase, guitar and most importantly the Word of God, left the USA for Port au Prince, Haiti. We arrived in Port au Prince to be a presence after a devastating earthquake and to “serve where we were needed.” We embraced the ministry of presence, not knowing how or even where we would be called. The Holy Spirit led and guided, and continues to do so as we meet each day. As we reflect on where we were and where we are now, we see GOD, His Kingdom. We see that it is through the CROSS that new life resurrects. Today, the Gospel moves us to see this clearly. What may look dead is not the final or the end. When it is touched by Jesus, by God, it resurrects, stands up, and gives praise. We pray for God to touch the matters of this day and have compassion upon the matters we face with our people and the difficult situations that Haiti has been facing for many days..
We are grateful to God for all of you who accompany us on this journey and who have been with us these 10 years. It is because of you we can do and be the presence needed here in the Felician Mission Haiti.
We are grateful that God gave us more sisters, Sisters Izajasza and Julitta, who make a difference in the lives of our Haitian brothers and sisters.
We are grateful for Our Volunteers in Mission, those who have visited us in the past and those who are now working through ZOOM to teach English to our teens.
It starts with our presence, an encounter, listening and discerning, then our actions.