By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

When Msgr. Francis X. Schmidt, who is coordinator of the charity Father Chuck’s Challenge, heard about the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti, it was a shock. Exactly one year ago, on Jan. 12, he and Cornelia Hunt, his co-coordinator, were in Haiti with a group from Food for the Poor staying at the Montana Hotel, which was severely damaged by the earthquake. They had been planning a return trip, possibly in February.

The reason for that visit was preliminary planning for a fishing village near Carrefour, very close to the epicenter of the earthquake and also heavily damaged. The group was scheduled to revisit the area. At this point it is unknown how the village fared.

As Msgr. Schmidt explained, a $60,000 grant from his group went toward the purchase of four 22-foot fiberglass fishing boats, with motors and all necessary fishing gear, as well as the construction of a large shed on land with solar panels, an artesian well and generator. The whole project was designed to provide employment for 24 men. They, in turn, would contribute part of their catch to the poor and elderly.

All of this is up in the air pending the status of the village.

Most of the money raised by Father Chuck’s Challenge ($1.5 million to date) has gone toward the construction of 400 small houses that shelter an estimated 2,500 people in Nicaragua. The group has contributed toward one housing project in Haiti and, given the disaster, may do more there in the future, according to Msgr. Schmidt.

Father Chuck’s Challenge is named in honor of the late Father Charles Pfeffer, who like Msgr. Schmidt, was a former director of the archdiocesan Office for Youth and Young Adults.

On Sunday, Feb. 7, a fifth anniversary memorial Mass for Father Pfeffer will be celebrated at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, who is also a former youth office director, will be the principal celebrant and homilist.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.