Saint Stephen Parish entered into a twinning relationship with Saint Francois d’Assise in 2004. Looking back at what we have accomplished, we are thankful for the many blessings we have received. We can trust in the Holy Spirit to be even more committed and effective going forward.
The goals at the start of this journey were to build solidarity with our sister parish; create a stewardship model for sharing time, talent and treasure; provide humanitarian relief to the people of Cerca la Source, Haiti; and cultivate their unique spiritual gifts so that we, too, would grow in the Spirit. In seeking to meet these goals, our initial focus has been on the school at Saint Francois. Donations have paid the costs of its teachers’ salaries and one meal a day for its children, currently numbering 500 in grades 1-12. Because of developments, noted below, that effort is now being challenged.
Our outreach is also to the larger community of Cerca la Source. Holding Hands with Haiti held drives to collect not only material for the school, but for shoes, dental, personal hygiene products and musical equipment, as well. Thanks to special donations, two generators for electricity were donated, the last at a cost of $13,000. Donated computer equipment helped establish a learning lab at the church’s community center and in 2006 we provided a satellite internet connection.
In 2007, the largest group of 11 travelers, made the difficult journey. In February 2009, three people made the trip, helping to gather information for three youngsters in need of medical assistance which we are seeking for them in the U.S., as well as gathering information to plan the following five years of our relationship.
Prayer is the foundation of all we have done, all we hope to do. Get involved. Come to our meetings, which are announced in the bulletin. Pick an area you are interested in and let us know, or come up with your own idea of what might further the relationship.
Working with the parish liturgy committee on ways to develop solidarity with liturgical celebrations and ways to encourage prayer by all groups in the parish.
Assisting with regular communication to both communities, Saint Francis and Saint Stephen, periodic bulletin announcements, arranging speakers, programs.
Working with Saint Stephen’s bookkeeper, arranging wire transfers, preparing financial reports.
Developing ideas, making contacts, matching donors with particular needs, getting the word out about those needs.
Keeping track of our goals and how our efforts match them, looking into needs and capabilities beyond our current mission to see if there should be further development.
At the request of a young Haitian, the Taizé Community is asking people worldwide to remember his country in prayer on the 12th day of every month. The day of prayer, beginning Feb. 12, will commemorate the Jan. 12 earthquake that destroyed the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.)
Prayer for Haiti
God our hope, we entrust to you the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Dismayed by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent, we ask you to inspire the hearts of those who are trying to provide the aid which is so indispensable. We know how deep the faith of the Haitian people is. Help the dying; strengthen the downhearted; console those who are weeping; send your Spirit of compassion on this people which has been so sorely tried.
Emmanuel Miraclude is 48 years old and has lived in Cerca la Source, Haiti longer than any other person in the village. Miraclude’s father died when she was eight. Her mother became handicapped. Miraclude’s seven sisters and four brothers cared for her. She currently has four children, three of her own and one adopted child. This interview was conducted by Cathy Forslund, a Saint Stephen parishioner, in March 2008 with a follow-up in February 2009. Translation is by Junior Saint Vil, Tainos of Translation Services.
Q – Where does your family live?
A – She lives close to St Francis School & Zanmi Lasante, Partners in Health clinic.
Q – What is your work in community?
A – Mericlude teaches at St Francis School part time in preschool & 2 & 3 grade. She also is the leader of “Le Femme” a women’s co-operative. IN addition she helps out with a Literacy program for adults.
ABOUT THE VILLAGE
Q – How old is Cerca La Source?
A – Cerca La Source was named & developed in 1898.
Q – Explain some of its history?
A – The town was first La Source, meaning the spring. In this location there were frequent floods so the people moved to Cerca, meaning circle, near the spring. Hence the town received its name “Cerca La Source.”
Q – What was your childhood like?
A – She was raised in CLS. Her Dad was always sick. She watched her mother struggle to raise the family. Mericlude had a cousin who was a captain in the Haitian army. He supported her in school. Mericlude dropped out of school in 10th grade & left after her cousin was denied as a girlfriend. She remarried after marrying a military man.
Q – What is the role/impact of government in CLS?
A – The national government does not have a strong presence. One national post was present in CLS. The local government just completed a road project that led to some of outlying chapels. International & other organizations (NGO) are more prevalent in the area.
Q – Historically, when did CLS see its most growth? (New construction, prosperity)
A – Three or four years ago when some Canadians worked & improved roads.
Q – How does that time compare with today?
A – Recently groups of organizations joined together to construct solar powered street lights throughout the village. In addition, the Digicell Company placed a cell phone tower in the village so many people have cell phones.
Q – Is it unusual to see visitors (like ourselves) in CLS?
A – Yes, it is not on a regular basis, only on certain occasions.
ABOUT ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI CHURCH (OUR SISTER CHURCH IN HAITI)
Q – When was the church built?
A – The church was built 60 years ago.
Q – Was the school built at the same time?
A – No, the school was built approximately 20 years ago.
Q – How many small chapels does St Francis support?
A – 6 chapels.
Q – Describe what it’s like at the Fall Feast Day?
A – St Francis feast day is Oct 4th. The Bishop of Hinche comes along with 30 priests. The celebration is bigger than Christmas & Easter almost. $ Goats chickens & pigs are slaughter for the party.
Q – How is Christmas celebrated?
A – This celebration Pere Bertrand slaughters a cow & we celebrate with mass & feast.
Q – Easter?
A – Mass & celebrations occur. Carnival in preparation of Lent (our Mardi Gras) is celebrated with the school & throughout the village. This is the only other time a cow is slaughtered for a feast. There are many parades, costumes & parties for this event that can last up to a week.
Q – Confirmation?
A – Many children from the parish & chapels come to St Francis to be confirmed, approximately 200 children a year. This is a 2-3 day retreat- it is the feast of the spirit.
Q – What events have been at the church?
A – There is a lot of music and singing. Conferences & educational sessions for the chapel take place.
The church roof has leaks & will need to be repaired soon.
DEVELOPING ECONOMIC STABILITY
Q – What is…beside your people…your greatest resource?
A – Raising animals, certain crops like mangoes.
Q – What do you think could help CLS the most?
A – Commerce. Both men & women of the village need to help improve the town.
Q – When did the bridge wash out?
A – There was a small, poorly made bridge that got washed out some time ago.
Q – Will the bridge be rebuilt?
A – No plans that she knows of.
Q – Do you remember having a plane land in CLS? (Old maps show an airport)
A – Mostly helicopters landed there established under Duvalier around 20 years ago. Hadn’t been kept up, used as soccer field. Recently the area has been cleared again and it is believed a mining company is going to build an airstrip.
Q – What do you see being done to improve people’s health?
A – Zanmi Lasante has been a big help to achieve this.
Q – What do you hope to experience in your lifetime?
A – Good roads, factories, industry, be able to earn money, improve living conditions. Be united.
Q – How have computers, electricity and cell phones impacted life here?
A – Best thing there especially for the young people
Q – What would you like to see changed?
A – Improve electricity. Recently many people have obtained solar panels to help with energy including Pere Bertrand. People may need to change too and not be set in ways.
Q – What would you like to stay the same?
A – St Francis School to continue to stress education.