Haiti Earthquake Anniversary
Jan. 12, 2011, will commemorate the first anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake. Many services have been planned. On the eve, there is a candlelight Mass and blessing of the mass graves of earthquake victims, and now of the cholera victims, in the wild, deserted fields of Titanyin.
At 8:00 a.m. the following morning there will be a Mass with the Papal Nuncio, bishops, cardinal representatives from Rome, the clergy and faithful. This Mass will take place in the courtyard of the cathedral amidst the rubble that was once the stately mother-church of the diocese of Port-au-Prince. Bishop Miot, who died in the quake, will be remembered in a special way. At noon, on the same day, we will have our own memorial here at St. Damien’s Hospital commemorating staff members who lost their lives, family members of staff and our own Molly Hightower and Ryan Kloos, young volunteers who died when the former hospital in Pétionville collapsed completely. It will be a difficult day for many.
Yesterday, at morning Mass, we had two bodies — victims of the cholera epidemic raging in Haiti for the past four months. One had arrived at our cholera tents from the Asylum for the Insane in filthy, ragged clothes, soiled sheets and wild eyes that were ravaged by high fever and severe diarrhea, chief symptoms of the disease. No name, no age, no health record, no next of kin. He died a few hours after arrival and was carried to our small chapel that each day welcomes the nameless poor.
For likely the first time, this young man was "at home" in a place where love dwells — a dignified place to rest and wait for God’s final coming. Father Rick Frechette C.P. led the large number of volunteers in a beautiful service of remembering for this unknown young man. We stood and surrounded his body lying on the floor in a simple body bag. We prayed the ancient Prayers for the Dead from the Roman Missal and sang traditional Creole funeral hymns. We placed flowers on his body and used incense and holy water to commend him to God. Father intoned the words of the age-old hymn, In Paradisum:
May the Angels lead you into paradise:
may the Martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city, Jerusalem.
May choirs of Angels welcome you,
and with Lazarus who is poor no longer
may you have eternal rest.
But when I review the past year, I realize that this tragic story is only one side of the picture. Despite the nightmare events, what strength and goodness we witnessed because of the quake! People poured in from all over the globe in unprecedented numbers — doctors, nurses, surgeons, technicians and therapists. Large containers of supplies arrived daily bringing wheel chairs, crutches, bandages, pain medication, soap, tents, drinking water, rice and clothing. Huge monetary donations were received from far-flung areas with unpronounceable names, places that had never before paid much attention to the plight of the Haitian people. Volunteers found a strength they never knew they had. Inner resources came to the fore. The poor neighbour helped his even poorer neighbour. Children learned to walk on new limbs. Weariness was put aside and replaced by incredible generosity. It was a year that revealed it is possible to be strong and hopeful even in the face of devastating tragedy.
It is a lesson the Haitian people learned long ago. Those who survived the quake often repeat the famous Haitian proverb, translated here:
If we are alive today,
in spite of hurricanes, hunger,
sickness and earthquakes, we should say,
Thank you, Lord
We must be here for a purpose.
Thank you for your continued support of our Haiti Mission. As I drink in the splendour of the sunrise each morning, I take time to thank God for each of you who sustain our work here in Haiti, with your prayers, your encouraging notes and your financial contributions. Quietly and faithfully you support us, day after day, month after month, year after year! May you and your families be blessed abundantly during this New Year!
With gratitude and prayers,
Lorraine Malo CSJ
Our Little Sisters and Brothers
Kay St. Germaine, Haiti