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Edition No. 70 — June 7, 2018 
The Transforming Experience of Haiti
March 2018
by Nancy Fitzgerald SSJ and Sheila Kennedy SSJ
We realize that we are living in a graced time within our Congregation. We have been invited by our leadership to envision our dreams, discuss them, and together find a way to make them a reality in some way.

In March of this year, Sheila and I were blessed to have the opportunity to spend a week in Haiti. When this opportunity was presented by the Council, we knew we  HAD  to go. Our prior and current ministries had led us to this  natural next step , and we were so grateful. 

In our daily prayer we pray:  we commit ourselves, our corporate prophetic voice and appropriate resources to the unmet needs of persons who are poor, marginalized and vulnerable  … this would be Haiti! Sheila and I are no strangers to the inner cities of Newark and Philadelphia through our service, prior and current. In our hearts, though, we knew that what we saw in Haiti would dwarf the poverty at our feet in those places. And so it did!

Our trip was organized through MISSION HAITI INC, based in Minneapolis. They have run a number of trips to Haiti and coordinate all arrangements and details. One trip each year is designated a C/SSJ Mission Trip. This was our trip, guided by Sue Torgerson, CSJ and Shelley Butler.

This particular trip is called an  immersion trip . As such, one does not engage in a specific service such as building/improving something, or teaching or working in a hospital. Rather, we travelled to various sites, which are largely influenced or directed by the Sisters, Companions of Jesus. It is they who run Annunciation School in Leogane, where 10 of the girls, whom the Federation sponsors, attend. 

We were a group of 13: five C/SSJs, two associates and six lay folks, including a lone gentleman! We landed in Port Au Prince on Monday morning, the 12 th of March, merely 90 minutes by plane from Miami. We were to spend the next week mostly travelling in the mountains, visiting various ministry sites. In all, we stayed overnight in four distinct ministry areas.

On our first full day we embarked on our trip through Port Au Prince up the mountains to Leogane. Our remarkable Haitian driver was Jean Garry, who had driven other ministry trips, as well as the Clintons and Anderson Cooper. NOTHING prepared us for what we saw on our drive. Less than two full minutes into the ride, we all fell silent. It was torturous and heart-rending to see mile upon mile of  hovels  of all sorts, which are the homes of the people.

We quickly saw that there was no running water or electricity in their homes. We saw children and others pumping water at various locations into assorted containers of every kind. They then made the trek back home with these heavy containers. Women would wash clothes in large pans or buckets, hanging clothes to dry on either lines or nearby bushes. Space and privacy (prized by many of us) were glaringly absent. During this ride of several hours we encountered more impossible situations, accented by remnants of the earthquake’s horror, in the form of destroyed roads and mounds of rocks and shattered buildings. We each felt our hearts break as tears slid silently — the scope —  beyond imagining. I quietly thought:  Where is God?

Well, as it turns out, God was in the schools … in the faces of the children, their teachers and the Sisters. Children, who nearly  popped out of their skin , so proud to meet all of us, greeted us at Annunciation School. Some classes sung a welcome in English, some in Creole. There were so many smiles all around that day. Lollipops, stickers and games were exchanged—goodies we each had brought. While we didn’t really know Creole well enough, the universal language of a smile, happy face, or meeting of the eyes do well enough. If you look into my eyes and if you smile, trust can be born, with hope as its  cousin .
As we looked around the outdoor yard, our eyes fell upon the portable sinks that had been set up through Change for Global Change. We would see a few more of these on our trip. YES — for making a difference!

Sheila and I were fortunate to have monetary gifts as well. St. Martin de Porres School children donated $1100, the parish another $900 and various friends added to this total. We were able to gift the schools, a nursing home and orphanage with these donations. U.S. money goes far in Haiti! (Thank you!) We also visited the Motherhouse and Novitiate of the Sisters and through the generosity of our Council, delivered an additional gift to the them. 

Over the next days we made our way to more schools, hospitals and an orphanage. We visited a working farm, which worked to  husband   the land’s dwindling resources. Trees are especially threatened as they have been plundered by other countries for their cherry wood, as well as burnt by the people for use as charcoal to cook, etc.

One particularly wrenching experience was the visit to the orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity. There we picked up the babies for a bit. When it was time to leave, I returned  my child  to her crib. She quickly reached out her hands  for more . I could hardly stand it. So I rubbed her back for a few more minutes. As I left her side I chokingly told her to  have a good life  … would she? ... how?

A major learning amid the heartbreak and devastation of all kinds was the insight to focus on the people, not the environment, as we travelled. That’s when the mood shifted and improved. What we came to see was the TRUE FACES OF THE PEOPLE. The people could have been folks walking down Lehigh or Germantown Avenues or Walnut Street. There was a pride and a dignity in their faces as they went about the day’s business and interacted with one another.

We met amazing people on this trip. There was Jane, an 18 year old from Oregon who, upon graduating, is choosing to spend six months helping at a medical clinic. Paulist Father Rick Frechette visited Haiti as a young priest, realized the utter lack of medical care, and returned to the States to become a medical doctor. He now runs St. Damian’s Hospital there. Or Lisa, a young woman who had been on several mission trips to Haiti. Finally she said to herself, “I will sell my house in the States, empty my bank account and simply return to Haiti.” She now runs a small recycling center, which employs 17 young Haitians. And SO many more stories like this … dreams … dreams … dreaming …
Something planted in our hearts … began to grow quietly there … and then insistently burst forth — all one can do is respond …
We saw these dreamers in so many places.
We saw them in the eyes of our tour guides, Sue and Shelley.
We saw them in the eyes of the sisters there.
We saw them in the eyes of the many volunteers of all ages whom we encountered.
We saw it on our plane ride back to the States. It was half filled with college students returning home after weeks of service.

As the day arrived to leave (on St. Joseph’s Day of all things!) Sheila and I each felt quite uncomfortable. How is it that  we get to leave … and  they have to stay ? …  Accidents  of geography ... history ... life?

We have come to see, weeks later, that while one may  leave Haiti , Haiti does not  leave one’s heart, consciousness or soul .
We each have a dream …
We each have a voice …
We each have eyes and heart to see, to know and to love.

This day, these days … Where is your dream, your heart, your eyes and your voice?
This day … these days … to whom are you sent? Whose voice do you hear? Whose face do you see? As individuals, as the Congregation, to whom are we (now) sent?

And how will I, will we, spend our  one wild, precious life  in some action, path or  way  … anew … to continue to meet unmet needs …

May we each continue to seek this place, within or without, and put the  feet of our heart
on their way. Nothing will, or can, be the same.
Picnic on the Patio — to Welcome Summer
Saint Joseph Villa
Summer is almost here — warm weather and picnics — the perfect summer combo!

On Wednesday May 30, 2018, sisters, residents and staff gathered outside on the patio and inside in the dining room for a delicious picnic lunch.

It was a special treat to be together for hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, all the picnic sides, listening to summer tunes and enjoying each other’s company.

Although a little cloudy — the sun peeked in and out — everyone had a wonderful time and greatly appreciated all that went into making the picnic so tasty and fun
"Rooted in the mission of Christ, ours is the same mission which continually unfolds in the Church, 'That all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you. I pray that they may be one in us.' (Jn 17:21)."
                                        — SSJ Constitutions #17
Editor, Sister Carole Pollock SSJ | 215.248.7269 | |