Thank you, from Haiti
Mar 7, 2018
This Sunday I am not in Saint Louis. I am celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally called Laetare Sunday, at the parish of Saint Michel in Boucan-Carré, Haiti. I have travelled here with Brian Cody and Bob Kelly of our Haiti Committee, and also our Youth Minister Courtney Rockamann and Priory High School Junior Stephen Rashford.
Courtney and Stephen are joining a group of students and faculty of Knoxville Catholic High School on their spring break mission trip. Bob and I will be meeting with Sister Stephanie, principal of the Saint Michel primary school, and the Buretex Construction Company to finalize the construction plans for the second story of the new school building we dedicated last year at this same time.
Brian is going on a great adventure. He is going to Bouli, one of the mission stations of Saint Michel Parish. As the crow flies, Bouli is about 16 miles from Boucan-Carré. But you can’t get there as the crow flies. There is no road to Bouli. You get there by foot or donkey over a challenging mountain footpath. Fr. Duportal, the pastor of Saint Michel, only gets there once or twice a year. The trip takes about 8 hours, depending how fast you or the donkey walks or climbs.
What did Brian do to deserve this? He volunteered. Actually, I had hoped to go there on this trip, but my stay has turned out to be shorter than I had originally planned. Bouli is a small village, and the Cathedral Parish of Knoxville has built a small medical clinic there. The medical needs in the countryside are still great, even though the cholera epidemic has subsided. Boucan-Carré is fortunate; it is just down the road from a very sophisticated hospital in Mirebalais (even though there is a 3 day wait to be seen in the emergency room). If you are sick in Bouli and need to go to the hospital, you need to take that mountain path to Boucan-Carré before you could get a motor vehicle to get you to the hospital. Once or twice a year, medical doctors from the Knoxville Parish visit Bouli to treat the sick. In between their visits, a resident nurse handles things.
I asked Brian to scout out the situation there. We have done a lot in Boucan-Carré. We have put a new roof on the church. We have built a parish center-rectory that is the envy of the Centre Department in Haiti; we have built the first floor of a new school building and we will now complete the second floor, with its sophisticated (for Haiti) vocational training facilities, and then fix up the convent for the sisters. The ongoing support of the parish operations and of the school is taken care of by Knoxville and another parish in Newport News, VA. I think we have done all that is wise for us to do in Boucan-Carré. There is greater need elsewhere.
As I have mentioned before, Haiti is a very young country. 55% of the population is below 25 years of age; 33% below 15 years. Even with education, opportunities are limited. I was very surprised to learn that in the last year, 1% of Haiti’s population has fled to…Chile! That’s a long way’s away. According to figures from the Policía de Investigaciones of Chile, 104,782 Haitians entered Chile in 2017, 114% more than in 2016 when 48,783 Haitians entered Chilean territory. Over twice that number have fled to the Dominican Republic.
The exodus is being driven by the French and Creole-speaking nation’s young people, both educated and uneducated, and particularly the rural poor. Mostly male, between the ages of 15 and 44, this group of migrants is propelled by a growing sense of hopelessness about what the future holds in Haiti.
Hope for the future must start with two basic things. Fundamental is health and safety. Of the 195 countries in the world today, Haiti’s life expectancy ranks 189th. So that clinic in Bouli is doing important work. Next is education. If the future is going to be different, all those young people must have the skills to make it different. Our school in Boucan-Carré is doing important work.
That all means that YOU are doing important work by supporting our efforts. Pope Francis has decried the globalization of indifference, but that does not exist here at Saint Anselm. Father Duportal has said it; Sister Stephanie has said it; the children of Boucan-Carré have said it. Mèsi anpil, Saint Anselm! And I say it too. Thank you very much! I’ll see you next Sunday.