Haiti Family Reunion: Our mission group is back with many stories and adventures to share in a slide show presentation on June 2 & 3, after all Masses in Collison Hall. Going back a fourth time over 15 years to our sister parish is truly a family reunion: seeing friends again, children grown up, celebrating successes we were a part of and assuring them we care about their challenges. They constantly give thanks for our help. Please join us!!!
Sister Parish Family Reunion
It’s so good when family members divided by distance get together for a reunion. Fifteen years ago everyone in our sister parish were strangers to us. We continue to get know each other. I have gone there four times, the last two with a group, and I have been the host of 4 pastors from Laborde when they visited here. Preparing for my first trip to Haiti was exciting because of my fear of the unknown. This last trip was full of energy of a group excited, full of ideas and plans. Leo Kasparbauer dreamed for years of visiting our sister parish. His daughter Gena Daly has done mission trips to Central America for chiropractic clinics. Her husband Jamie had always wanted to see what that was like and being a TSA agent helped our travels. Joleen Kasparbauer didn’t want to miss the family adventure. We arrived without incident at Port au Prince. The only thing I dread about arrival is the very aggressive porters that don’t take no for an answer, but soon they were left behind grumbling about their tip and we were dodging deep holes, people and colorful trucks called tap taps that act as buses. We stayed in town for the night at the Caritas compound to avoid rush hour traffic jams. Fr. Herve resides there as head of this national organization that provides the church’s charity to farmers, small business, care for the aging and sick and many other services. Fr. Herve was pastor of Laborde for two of my previous visits. He took us out for live music on a beautiful tropical evening. We were joined by Tamara who had traveled 4 hours to say hi and thank you for supporting her studies for 9 years. She will become a doctor this December. Then she will serve her country for a year before joining a practice, hopefully close to her parish.
The present pastor of our sister parish, Fr. Joseph, had a great visit planned for us. The next day two vehicles took our group, our baggage, Fr. Joseph, drivers and an interpreter by the coast, over mountains, past vistas of beaches and palm trees, but also past waterways clogged with garbage, piles of garbage burning on curbs, shanty towns, and hordes of people walking the roadside, some trying to sell snacks at speed bumps. It is always a relief to arrive at the parish grounds in the village of Laborde surrounded by quiet countryside (not counting the 24 hour a day roosters crowing). We were shown our basic but clean and safe dorm rooms built recently by the French priest that works with the parish. Poverty here isn’t what new comers expect. There’s no naked bloated skeletons with skin, but people do die from curable diseases and famine – two years ago 3 harvests in a row failed. Malnutrition is very common. School uniforms can hide how skinny some children are and poor brain development isn’t obvious to those that don’t speak the language. The poor hide their poverty, wearing nice second hand clothes while living in a mud hut with one meal of beans and rice a day, if they are lucky. And the poorest often don’t go to school and the ill and weak avoid public places. There are many things that we take for granted, because they’re always handy, that they don’t have: clean water, dependable electricity, garbage service, safety nets like insurance and government social services and aid to old and unemployed, and much more. I often think that they live like Jesus did in poor Nazareth and his words “Whatever you do for the least of these…” takes on new meaning. They certainly have many more reasons to rely on God’s providence than we do.
It was good to see familiar faces at the parish. Children grown up and adults I share stories with. Tamara’s mom is very involved with the parish council and dispensary. I remember meeting her when I offered her daughter medical school. She was kind but leery of such a gift then. Now she had a great smile every time I saw her. I got to know Fr. Joseph better than when he visited Carroll. He is a very humble and dedicated priest that’s held in warm affection by his parish. I could understand him better because of the translating done by his nephew, Felix. He learned English to work on a cruise ship and he treated us like first class guests: always available and kind, offering a hand and keeping us smiling with his silly antics. We met the three nuns that came last year. They now run the school and have improved the rigor of education there and add a dignity and regimentation that some of us remember of nuns when they ran the schools here. Fr. Joseph arranged a meeting with Cardinal Chibly Langlois, the first cardinal of Haiti. He spent time talking to us about our trip. I told him we were there because of our parish patron’s motto: “The poor are the church’s treasure.”
We brought close to 400 pounds of supplies for the people of Laborde: pillow case dresses sewn by Catholic Daughters, medical supplies, toothbrushes, tools, stickers, 3 soccer balls… Joleen and Gena got to know some of the girls well as they worked them making bracelets with buttons. Leo, Jamie, a handyman and I used the tools we brought to make and install stall doors in the new bathrooms for the church. We didn’t quite finish the job because the electricity was seldom on, which also meant several sweltering nights sleeping with no fan. Gena held clinics one day at the parish dispensary and another at the Fatima chapel for over a hundred people each day. It was great to be in the nearly completed chapel. Work on it stopped after Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016 because the bishop wanted all funds going to repairs (140 church buildings have had roofs replaced so far). We will start sending donations again to finish the Fatima chapel’s windows and furnishings. Back at the parish the kindergarten rooms and the main church roofs remain in shambles. They are eager to have Mass in their church again. It is a big project and I explained that we cannot raise the needed funds now because the Carroll parishes are reorganizing. They will do what they can with some of the regular collections St. Lawrence sends them with also some help from their diocese and Caritas.
This is the first time I went to Haiti in Lent. It wasn’t any different there but being in solidarity with the poor was part of our fasting and almsgiving. We had plenty to eat, more meat than most there get in a year, but when I got back I didn’t feel like eating beans and rice for a long time. Plans changed often and it took patience when it came to trying to get enough transportation for our group, the uncertainties of life there, and translation misunderstandings. Small annoyances compared to what these people deal with daily with no escape for them to our dependable luxuries here. My prayer takes on a deeper meaning when I am so far from the comfort and security back at home. The richness of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist overwhelmed me at daily Mass with an intimate gathering of the faithful in a rectory room. In that same room I had met with some of the families we are helping to educate their children. Two of them had fathers that had died. We are helping each put a daughter, Beelounge and Christi, through nursing school. Stanley, the oldest of 9 children said, “Thank you for making it possible for me to get an education, you have made me feel human.” I was touched. Our primary goal there is to help them help themselves and in his simple but heartfelt thanks he revealed how precious human dignity is. Everywhere we received constant thanks for our help and were treated like royalty. After a farewell feast at a gathering of many families there was a presentation of tokens of appreciation, a skit of youth dressing up as their dream job (Stanley dressed as a priest) and much song and dance. We thanked them for their hospitality and prayers. We felt Felix deserved something for all his help. His dream is to take business classes to get a decent job, but he needed a laptop. In appreciation for all his help, money from the Kasparbauers and from those that had donated to the trip made that possible.
One family resemblance that both our sister parish and St. Lawrence have is a love of music. When I’m at Sunday Mass there I always imagine the day when our whole family, everyone from both parishes, will meet face to face in heaven. A great family reunion where they can personally thank you for your help and we all join together singing God’s praises.
God’s peace, Deacon Tim
Meet family for the first time. Our lives are fuller when we personally encounter family we have heard about but never met face to face. We have a great relationship with our sister parish in Haiti through emails, pictures, prayers and support. What got this relationship really going and continuing to grow is visits here by 4 of their pastors and 3 visits there by me. A small group went with me last time in 2012. It is time for another visit. I invite you to join me. Let me know if you are interested and I can answer any question you have. I am planning to go for about a week in late February or early March, it’ll depend on what works best for those going (and if necessary later in March or even in January are possible). By the end of November we will set a date and get tickets (passports, too, if you don’t have one). The weather is great there in our winter but it is not a high-class resort. Their rooms and food at the parish are simple, but adequate. News from there can be scary, but being in the pastor’s care has always made me feel safe. Your eyes will be opened to the poverty that is just a few hundred miles off our coast. You will be forever grateful for even the smallest gifts God has given you here. You will be inspired by the blessing they have even without most of the material things we have. And you will be family.
We can always use prayers for a blessed adventure and funds to offset the expenses for travel are appreciated, they can be labeled “Haiti trip”. In the past the purpose of visits was to get to know members of our sister parish personally and do some minor service such as bringing some supplies and visiting parishioners and students. I am considering some simple projects we could do this time like building benches or bunk beds, helping the injured in the dispensary, I’m open to ideas.
Haiti News from Fr. Joseph:Lord had mercy on us. The new chapel is still standing without a scratch. Closer to the coast the 140 mph winds did a lot of damage.
Haiti News from Fr. Joseph:In Laborde, the hurricane has broken all things: Churches, our elementary schools, private houses, gardens, Many people have come to live in the secondary school and in the rectory I can't visit the chapels yet, but the directors have told me that all are completely destroyed. I'll send some photos of the Church, school, the rectory and the Church yard. Thank you very much for the money sending. (Note: The death toll so far is 1000; starvation and cholera will claim more.)
Pray for Haiti Our sister parish near Les Cayes was hit by the worst of Hurricane Matthew. Homes, crops and livestock were certainly lost. A bridge was washed away making aid to the area difficult. It may be awhile before Fr. Joseph can give us specific news.
Haiti ChapelIt has been a year since we started helping Our Lady of Fatima’s people build a dignified place to give glory to God. So far we have raised just over half the money needed to complete it. Thank you for your prayers and donations to this project. Checks for donations can be made out to St. Lawrence with Haiti Chapel in memo.
In November on Christ the King 20 children made their first Communion and the last Sunday 107 young and adults were confirmed. It was a wonderful celebration. Christmas is already at our door, I wish it to you and the people of St. Lawrence a joyful and happy one! May the child Jesus bring to everybody everything good.
Our Sister Parish in Haiti Most of our support sent to Haiti is used to educate the children of Laborde, to help them help themselves rise out of poverty. But our money and prayers are also sent for our ultimate goal as church - to save souls. A special way to help them in this mission will be announced soon.
HAITI NEWS:Dear Deacon Tim,
With so much pleasure, I come to answer to your last mail. Thank you very much.
The St Vincent de Paul funds (that I mentioned in my last letter) are to help people in special needs. In Laborde Parish we gather many of the poorest people in an association called "St Vincent de Paul". They are more than sixty. Most of them live in their family. And others (they are 7 now) live in a house of the Parish. For three years (2011, 2012, 2013), they were helped by Spain’s Catholic Charity. However, these funds have been stopped and have not yet been renewed. We have to feed these people and maintain the house with our weak means. So, a part of the funds received from St Lawrence Parish helps us in this task. I hope this won't last much longer.
Our transportation problems are not resolved yet. We are still waiting for the arrival of the car ordered by Fr. Bernard. In the coming months we will get it.-Fr. Joseph
On behalf of my parishioners and on mine, I come to wish you and St Lawrence peopleMERRY CHRISTMASand HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015
Thank you for helping us to commemorate a nice Christmas. Last thursday we had celebrated with people of "St Vincent de Paul" and December 30 we will be back to continue the feast. This morning we have had a thanksgiving mass for the benefit of our supporters in St Lawrence Church. Tomorrow night we will have a great Christmas eve and Thursday, after the great Mass, we'll celebrate with the altars servers. Thank you so much!
May God bless you and everyone of St Lawrence church!
Our drought has ended. It has been raining here for three weeks. The weather is now nice. We have a good greenness. Our farmers are sowing now. This week, I know, is a special week for American people. You are celebrating the THANKSGIVING DAY. I wish to you and the people of St. Lawrence: good, happy, and flourishing!
A thousand thanks to you and the St. Lawrence people for your important support. Blessing of God for everyone of you! May God bless you and America! Fr. Joseph
Correspondence with the new pastor of our sister parish in Haiti:
Dear Father Joseph, I am very happy to welcome you as pastor in Laborde, our sister parish (St. Lawrence in Carroll, Iowa). I'm sorry this is so slow getting to you. The address I had for you had a mistake. Fr. Max just emailed me with the correct one. I look forward to getting to know you and sharing news of your parish with mine. Three pastors from Laborde have visited St. Lawrence. These visits have greatly improved our relationship. I look forward to meeting you someday. I know you are busy with a new parish now, but if you have plans to travel to the USA it would be a good opportunity for us to fly you to Iowa. God bless your new assignment and preparations for the new school year. I am a teacher and know how busy this time of year is. We have money to send to Fonkoze. God's Peace, Deacon Tim
Dear Deacon Tim, I just come to hear from you. I looked forward it for many weeks. I have tried to email you but that was not possible because the address that I had was also wrong. A thousand thanks for giving me a sign. I promise to be the forth pastor who will visit St. Lawrence Parish, maybe next summer. I will come back to that for better planning. God bless you and St. Lawrence people!Fr. Joseph
Dear Deacon Tim, I’m very happy to greet you and St. Lawrence parishioners a second time. I thank you very much for your last email that made me feel happy and safe. After reading that and after two months of observation in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, I felt it was necessary to make a little report on our parish school for the benefit of yourself and St Lawrence parishioners.
Kindergarten (children three to five years old). We have for this year an enrollment of more than 120 children with 8 teachers.
Elementary (children from six to twelve years): 345 pupils with 14 teachers.
High School (7th to 12th grade): 195 students with 32 teachers and a board of 7 Directors. I note that last year there were 160 students, because of the weakness of the parents resources, we had closed the year 2013-2014 with a deficit of $5,303.73 (US dollars). We need an urgent help to pay this debt before the ending of this month.
Our expectation for this year: Average fees by student: $ 179.83/year. We have 195 students whose 10% will be scholars or unable to pay. We expect an entry of: $31,650.08
All Teachers salaries: 812hours/month x $3.20/hour= US$ 2,598.40/month X 10 = US$ 25,984.00
Staff salary : $ 1,465.70/month X 10 = US$ 14,657.00
Keepers and Charwomen (4) including one of the kindergarten : $ 309.73/m X 10 = $3,097.30
Miscellaneous: $ 500.00/month X 10= $ 5,000.00/year
Total preview expenses: $ 48,738.30
Only for the secondary school, I expect a new deficit of : US$ 17,088.22
So, the situation is very alarming for me when I have just come to take charge of this Parish. Moreover, I have others catechetic and social projects that I am looking for some funds to implement. Lastly, I count on your usual help to fill those deficits on our budget and start some pastoral activities. May God bless every one of you! Fr. Joseph Petuel Lainesca
Dear Fr. Joseph, I am glad to hear the transfer worked. I thank you for the very fine school report. My fellow parishioners appreciate knowing the details of how the money we send is used and their hearts will respond with generosity. I am happy to tell you that we will be sending you enough to take care of last school year's debt and some to help with your pastoral needs. We have much to send now because it's been 2 months since we sent a full collection and we had an annual activity for our feast day that raised $5000. Our farmers here are just starting what looks to be a great harvest. We pray that God will take care of the people of Laborde, especially to protect them from the chikungunya virus. God's peace,Deacon Tim
You can read about our experience in Haiti on the following pages.