A month after a devastating earthquake rocked southern Haiti, local faithful are sending desperately needed relief supplies to survivors.
On Sept. 11, the archdiocesan Haitian Apostolate kicked off a month-long donation drive at two Philadelphia parishes, St. William and St. Barbara, both home to the area’s 3,000 some Haitian Catholic community members.
Also coordinating the initiative are the archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees and Catholic Social Services (CSS), with the latter agency covering ocean shipping costs for the donations.
Archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services will provide over 5,000 pounds of non-perishable food items such as rice, shelf-stable milk, beans and peanut butter.
CSS will also supply diapers and feminine hygiene products, while the agency’s Casa del Carmen Family Service Center, based in North Philadelphia, will contribute more than 100 pairs of flip flops.
The footwear donations were boosted by Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Rose Patrice Kuhn, director of Spanish ministry at St. Agnes in West Chester, who admitted to “emptying two dollar stores of flip flops” en route to Saturday’s collection.
Upon arrival in Haiti, the donations will be received and distributed by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), an order serving hard-hit southwest Haiti and the congregation of Haitian Apostolate chaplain Father Eugène Almonor, in residence at St. William.
A native of Haiti, Father Almonor said the Oblates “lost all, including school buildings, churches (and) rectories” at their Les Cayes campus in the magnitude 7.2 quake Aug. 14 that killed more than 2,200 and injured at least 12,000.
The order itself reported no injuries, although two employees remain missing. The bishop’s residence in Les Cayes collapsed, killing Father Emile Beldor. Cardinal Chibly Langlois sustained non-life-threatening arm and leg injuries; Father Jean-Antoine Coulanges is listed as missing.
According to Voice of America, 18 people attending a baptism were killed in Immaculate Conception Parish church of Les Anglais.
The OMI-run elementary and high schools at which Father Almonor studied were “destroyed,” as were nearby churches, which urgently need “vestments, chalices, ciboriums, monstrances – everything,” he said.
Just days after the quake, Tropical Storm Grace battered the island nation, hampering rescue and recovery efforts.
For residents of Haiti – the poorest nation in Latin America and the Caribbean, and among the most impoverished in the world – the latest quake only compounds a relentless series of disasters in recent years.
Last month’s temblor occurred just 60 miles from where a January 2010 quake struck, killing an estimated 220,000 died and injuring upwards of 300,000.
In early July, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was ambushed and shot dead in his home; his wife Martine, survived her injuries in the attack. A former justice ministry official is now suspected of having ordered the assassination.
Kidnapping and gun violence continue to plague Haiti, which has been hard hit by COVID – and has struggled to rebuild over the decade since the 2010 disaster.
During an Aug. 20 prayer service for Haiti, Father Almonor said that “Haiti is down, but it can be raised up, as Jesus was after he died.”
The archdiocesan donation drive has only affirmed that belief, he said.
“This can be summarized by one word: love,” said Father Almonor. “It’s the love, the solidarity of everyone to help suffering people. So for me, it’s wonderful to see.”
Donated items for the archdiocesan Haitian relief effort will be accepted at St. William Parish until Oct. 24. To arrange a drop-off, contact the rectory at (215) 745-1389.
Check donations are also welcome and may be mailed to Sr. Gertrude Borres at the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, 222 N. 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Checks should be made payable to “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia/PCMR.” For additional information, contact Sr. Gertrude at (215) 587-3540.
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