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Reflections from Haiti
By: James Porter and Maria M. Odom
During the week of July 25,CLINIC board members Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, and CLINIC’s Executive Director, Maria M. Odom participated in a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)/Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) fact-finding delegation. They investigated the situation of unaccompanied children, displaced Haitians, and other populations left vulnerable by the January 12 earthquake. The group travelled to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
The experience was eye opening, and moments of great joy gave way to moments of great sorrow, as the bittersweet experience unfolded.
Below is a glimpse into what CLINIC’s Executive Director Maria M. Odom experienced on the trip:
MRS staff, Bishop DiMarzio, and I arrived in Port-au-Prince where we were picked up by our Catholic Relief Services (CRS) colleagues. Our first stop was the Papal Nunciature, where the delegation members were welcomed by the Apostolic Nuncio and Archbishop Wenski. After lunch at the Nunciature, the delegation proceeded to Sacred Heart Church where we met with Father Hann, who is the pastor of the church as well as the General Secretary of the bishops’ conference in Haiti. Before the earthquake, Sacred Heart parish was comprised of over 5,000 middle-class families. Now, Sacred Heart attempts to rebuild, recover, and heal from the devastation suffered during the earthquake. Parishioners and Eucharistic ministers perished in the earthquake, and the church was completely destroyed. A makeshift outdoor church, constructed under two large tents and exposed to the extreme heat, takes its place next to busy streets full of traffic, noise, and crowds. While we visited with Father Hann, people entered and sat in the pews in front of the altar for a short-lived peaceful respite from the difficulties of life.
We then visited a camp where 15,000 people who were displaced in the earthquake reside. There, Archbishop Wenski, Bishop Dimarzio, and Father Juan Molina concelebrated Mass. It was a joy to share Mass with the residents, especially the children. The conditions at the camp were unimaginable, yet we were able to clap and sing and rejoice together during one of the most moving and honest Eucharistic celebrations I have ever experienced.
For more information, see the press release issued by USCCB. A report will be released in September detailing recommendations from the delegation. Additional pictures will be available on our Facebook page.
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