From our Pastors
“2My poor little Haiti” was the opening of a text sent to Fr. Michael from his friend Fr. Watson Louis as the news of the assassination of President Moise broke and gang induced violence surged in Port au Prince. The struggles of the Haitian people seem to draw attention only when they erupt. There has been a spate of articles in various media arguing what to do or not to do to “help” Haiti. The current day reality we are witnessing of Haiti is the fruit of centuries of colonization and chattel slavery initiated by the Spanish and then continued and compounded by the French. The indigenous people of Haiti were the Taino people (Taino meaning “good” or “noble”). It is estimated there were between 250,000 and a million Taino when Columbus arrived Dec. 5, 1492. Columbus renamed Haiti, (which in the Taino language meant “high ground” or “mountainous land”) Hispanola or “New Spain.”
Columbus was offered hospitality and allowed to leave a group of 39 men. Soon thereafter many more colonizers arrived exploiting the land for its gold and by 1504 the last of the indigenous leadership were deposed. By 1514, most of the Taino people had died from enslavement, massacre or disease.* (Russell Schimmer, GSP, Yale University) French influence began in 1625 as the eastern portion of the island was renamed St. Domingue. The French brought chattel salves from various parts of the Atlantic coast of Africa and established extensive sugar cane plantations and deforested much of the area for export. The colony accounted for nearly 1/3 of the transatlantic slave trade. Slaves were treated brutally, and many died. Some escaped and created settlements in remote areas. In 1791 the slaves revolted and in 1804 finally defeated Napoleon’s forces and formed the world’s first independent black republic.
Since that time, Haiti has suffered invasions, coups, dictators, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. The efforts of NGOs and charities have not always been best efforts. A culture that perpetuates dependence and disenfranchisement in their future has been the norm for Haiti over the last century. Fr. Michael has been involved in supporting education and faith projects in Haiti for the past five years. With all its complexity, the reality of Haiti is a story of actual people with hopes and dreams, needs and ideas. T is Kelby who wants to be a priest and has completed two years of theology. It is Blondine, one of the brightest female students in the country who is receiving a scholarship to study at the College of Notre Dame to become a pharmacist. It is Johndy and Gaphendy, best friends who both aspire to be doctors and are in premedical studies. It is Fr. Watson Louis who when offered a position in Paris when he completed his graduate studies by the bishop there, chose to return to the hard life of Haiti in loyalty to his people and his church.
What can we do for Haiti? Pray for the people and for wisdom among political and economic leaders. Look for concrete ways to learn more about Haiti and understand how actions, silence and false narratives have contributed to the problems. Here is a link to an interview with the rector of the Cathedral of St. Anne in Anse-à-Veau, Fr. Louis
Fr. Michael will be going to Haiti on August 6 to bring financial and material aid and to meet with Fr. Watson and members of his mission parish. Please keep him in your prayers. If you have a sturdy suitcase you might want to contribute, he needs several to pack items to bring. Please call the office or send an email , firstname.lastname@example.org, if you can help.
Fr. Michael Callaghan, c.o. and Fr. Mark Lane, c.o.