By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – On behalf of the parishes of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Cardinal Justin Rigali recently presented a check totaling nearly $2 million for earthquake relief efforts in Haiti to Catholic Relief Services, the Church’s international, humanitarian relief and development agency in the United States headquartered in Baltimore.

A collection to help CRS help Haiti was taken up in the 267 parishes of the Archdiocese at weekend Masses Jan. 23-24.

The Cardinal presented the $1,807,269 check to Ken Hackett, president of CRS, May 5 in the auditorium of Incarnation of Our Lord School in the Olney section of North Philadelphia. {{more}}

Incarnation Parish has a significant number of Haitian Catholics who have been personally impacted by the Jan. 12 earthquake, which claimed countless lives and left 3 million injured or displaced in the Caribbean nation’s capital and largest city, Port-au-Prince.

“How wonderful this is that amidst this tremendous tragedy, amidst all the loss of life, that it could generate so much love, so much solidarity and such a response that comes directly from the heart,” the Cardinal said at the check presentation.

During the assembly, numerous parishioners who have ties to Haiti sang songs in Haitian Creole.

Among them was Haitian Jean Noisette, 46, whose mother-in-law and 26-year-old nephew died in the earthquake.

“As Haitians, we feel happy and blessed that we have a community that stands with us,” he said. “We would like to thank everyone who contributed to help our country.”

Father Albert Gardy Villarson, O.M.I., chaplain of the Haitian Apostolate in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in residence at Incarnation of Our Lord Rectory, offered a prayer and thanked Cardinal Rigali and the faithful of the Archdiocese for helping build a better life for Haiti’s earthquake survivors.

A priest of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary, Father Villarson is a native of Haiti.

There are nearly 2,300 Haitian Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese; Haiti is approximately 80 percent Catholic.

Father Geraldo J. Piñero, pastor of Incarnation, said the parish and school combined contributed nearly $9,000 to the archdiocesan collection for Haiti.

“We’re here today to celebrate the goodness, the generosity of the good people of this Archdiocese in the face of the horrible tragedy that befell our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” Father Piñero said in welcoming remarks.

The Cardinal commended CRS for its “magnificent heart” and personal commitment in carrying out its mission.

On behalf of CRS, Hackett thanked the Cardinal for his leadership and the faithful of the Archdiocese for their kindness.

Hackett visited Haiti during Holy Week, his second visit there since the earthquake hit.

“A lot has been done, a lot continues to need to be done,” he said. “The situations for people living in Port-au-Prince are not good at all.”

Although many of the displaced Haitians have been equipped with tents and a steady supply of food and water, there are not enough jobs for them, Hackett said.

The relief the faithful of the Philadelphia Archdiocese have collected to help CRS help Haiti will be earmarked for both short-term and long-term needs, Hackett said, among them water, food and shelter; rebuilding projects and employment opportunities.

Life for Haitians headquartered in temporary camps may seem normal in that street signs, shops and Internet cafes have been set up, children jump rope and kick soccer balls and adults wait in line for supplies. “But normal is not living in a tent with 49,999 other people,” Hackett said.

And now, Haiti is bracing for its rainy season, which briefly precedes hurricane season.

Throughout its earthquake recovery efforts, CRS works closely with the Church of Haiti. CRS anticipates its five-to-six-year strategic recovery plan for Haiti will cost $200-$250 million.

According to Hackett, the Philadelphia Archdiocese ranks among the top 10 contributing dioceses to CRS’ aid to Haiti.

In helping the Haitians, CRS assumes the role of steward. “As you entrust your gifts to us, we take that role very seriously,” Hackett said. “We thank you for your generosity, we thank you for your compassion, your concern of and for the people in Haiti.”

Also attending the check presentation at Incarnation were Msgr. Joseph L. Logrip, regional vicar for the Philadelphia-North vicariate, and Maureen H. McCullough, director of CRS’ Northeast-Mid-Atlantic Region in Radnor.

The $151,295 raised through the Catholic schools across the Archdiocese has also been sent to CRS.

For more information about Catholic Relief Services’ collection, including how to donate to CRS online, visit or call 1-877-HELP CRS (1-877-435-7277).

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or