Greetings from Haiti: A Visit to St. Nicolas Parish
“I can’t ask you to go there… it is too far,” Pere Sonley told us. He was speaking about St. Nicolas parish, which has the most difficult situation of the nine congregations in his care. We had hoped to visit with him on the third Sunday of Advent, but, he told us, “It is a four-hour walk up a mountain.” So we stayed behind at sea-level while he and four acolytes set off on their overnight adventure.
The first thing Monday morning we asked how it went. “It was good,” he told us, “but the climb really was difficult for some of the acolytes. They had to stop three times to rest. The people were happy to see us. They had a feast for us after the service. They had to send a donkey to get the water for our showers on Saturday night. The water was too cold for the acolytes to have a shower, but they had fun.”
“Afterwards the parish leaders told me, ‘Pere Sonley, we are glad to see you. But we need a school! There is no school for our children. The older ones can walk down to Gressier, but it is too far for the small children to walk three hours each way, every day. What can we do?”
It was easy to see the villagers’ plight had moved him. Even in Haiti it is unusual for an entire village of 5000 people to have no school at all. The church of St. Nicolas has classroom space; all that is needed is a salary for a teacher. “Well, let me pray about it too,” I said. After doing so, I decided to make this the focus of our monthly e-update.
So if this little vignette catches the interest of anyone in CNY, let me share that there is a very well-developed system for congregations in the US to support outreach activities in Haiti. A partnership program run by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti handles contributions, and provides for accounting and oversight. I’d be happy to share more information.
“Of all nine parishes you oversee, is St.Nicolas your priority?” we asked. “Yes,” he said, “it is.”
Central New Yorkers Dr. Janet and the Rev. Donnel O’Flynn are serving The Episcopal Church as Volunteers in Mission in Leogane, Haiti. Their goal is to start a department of Rehabilitation Science at the Episcopal University of Haiti.