“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.