Back to School!

Thursday, December 22 2011

ecole3Our last visit of our last day was to a school recently constructed with the assistance of Development and Peace. It is run by the Haitian Province of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception, a religious congregation founded by Mother Delia Tetreault of the province of Quebec. The former school operated here by this community was destroyed by the earthquake, and now it is completely rebuilt. Yet another sign of hope. The Sister Provincial, together with two of her sisters, were obviously very proud and excited as they showed us around this new Catholic girls’ school, which provides education to nine hundred children aged six to eighteen. They used the occasion of the visit to present D&P with a plaque expressing the gratitude of the congregation and the students for this beautiful new school.

The day had begun with a visit from the President of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, Most Reverend Chibly Langlois. This have both Archbishop Durocher and I the chance to speak with him about the priorities of the Haitian Bishops as regards the ecclesial reconstruction that needs to occur. Then our delegation made a whirlwind visit to officials of the Canadian International Development Agency stationed in Haiti. Since their offices are housed in the Canadian embassy to Haiti, this gave us the opportunity to greet briefly our Canadian ambassador. From there we stopped into an organization that offers formation for a whole network of community radio stations operating throughout Haiti, including a few associated with the local Church. I hadn’t realized the importance of such radio stations until I came here. Since more than fifty percent of the population is illiterate and too poor to own televisions, this is for many their sole source of information for what is happening in the community, what to do in the case of emergencies and so on. Our final visit before proceeding to the school was to the offices of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Haitian Episcopal Conference. We spoke there of their priorities and work and of our desire that the presence and work of D&P and its partners be a support to them.

Tomorrow we visit with the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti and then make our way to the airport. Time will be very tight tomorrow, so this is my last blog post from Haiti.

Perhaps what has remained most strongly with me is my memory of a woman whom we met earlier in the week during our visit to MPP. She had arrived at their centre following the earthquake. So traumatized was she by that event, on top of all her other problems, that she snapped and was in need of professional psychological assistance. God knows – I’m afraid I would have just as easily lost it in the midst of this terrible reality. By the time we met her, however, she was smiling and laughing. Able to laugh. Because of the love and attention of the community, and the professional help that they were able to provide for her, she is now well and … able to laugh. This is my prayer for the people of Haiti – that they will find a renewal and restoration that brings them joy.

The earthquake of which we are all aware is but an external sign of the interior tremors that have been shaking the people of Haiti for generations. The crushing weight of absolute poverty has left countless persons without a sense of their personal worth and dignity. The work of D&P and its partners is obviously very modest in comparison to the overwhelming needs here. Yet the renewal and hope that they bring to the people they assist is an indication of the personal reconstruction that our Lord wills for each and everyone of his people here in this country. As Christmas announces God’s accomplishment of the impossible, let us not fail to pray that what is truly humanly impossible – the restoration of the Haitian people and society – will by the grace of God and the agency of people dedicated to the poor become a reality.

The Most Reverend Richard Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops