By Sr Janet Fearns, Missio-England and Wales
Amidst the tales of sadness emerging from Haiti after the earthquake, there are also good news stories of people who survived the devastation. Across the world, there are ongoing attempts to communicate with friends, relatives and colleagues of those living in Port-au-Prince, often hoping for the best but fearing for the worst. Amongst the global searchers has been Missio, the Catholic Church’s official body supporting the Catholics of the developing world. There had been no word of Fr Clarck de la Cruz, the National Director of Missio-Haiti.
Only a few days ago, Missio-England and Wales published a message from the National Director of Missio-Jamaica, Fr Donald Chambers, saying, ‘I have been desperately trying to get in touch with the Missio National Director of Haiti for a report on what’s happening there – without success. We don’t know how he is. Telephone and internet connections are down. Haiti is almost completely cut off from the world. We are in the dark.’
Then, only a few minutes ago, came the good news from Missio’s headquarters in Rome. The Secretary General, Fr Timothy Lehane Barrett e-mailed to announce one more survivor:
“My dear National Director and friends of missionaries,
I wish to express profound thanks and gratitude to all of you who have written in the last two weeks about the situation of the people of Haiti. News agencies have described it as the worst disaster ever and rescuers described it like a war zone. I am sure that in these days, we have all felt the presence and the proximity of so many people asking us questions and wanting to help. Indeed, many of you have asked about the situation and whereabouts of Fr Clarck de la Cruz our National Director and I know some of you have tried to contact him as I tried to do myself. This of course was impossible as communications are not functioning properly. I eventually got news of him yesterday through our friends at the national office of the Antilles and they would like to share with us the latest e-mail they received from Fr Alain Laverne, the MISSIO Director for the Diocese of Nassau (The Bahamas) who himself is a Haitian and he wrote: ‘Father Clarck – the Haitian MISSIO National Director has survived the quake. He is doing fine. Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti. Thanks a million’. Sadly, we know that the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Serge Miot, who was also the President of the Episcopal Commission for Missions died as a result of the disaster.
But amidst the so many images of suffering and tears of desperation and unmerciful pain, in the fallen masonry, from the crushed lives and limbs, the world was moved to brotherhood. So many speak about the resilience of the Haitian people and I am sure that we all smiled and cheered too as little Elisabeth, the 18-day-old baby who spent 11 of those buried, was pulled from the rubble or maybe we applauded too with the rest of the world, as the images of seven-year-old little Kiki with his crooked tooth that was exposed through his smile as broad as his outstretched arms, were flashed around the world, when he was being passed by the rescuers to the safe grasp of his sickly thin mother. These almost biblical scenes of joy are like the many others, not broadcast in the media, that are experienced by our missionaries and volunteers who are working there every day. Let us continue to ask the Lord to bless their efforts and give them strength. Their presence and work gives us the encouragement and strength to continue to hope that the people there can recover from this terrible tragedy.
We have seen the wonderful spirit of solidarity and the generous aid that is arriving from all countries that bring relief to the people who have lost everything and I am sure that it will be a great comforted to them and to the missionaries to know that the entire international community is taking action in so many concrete ways. Thanks to this international coordination, the people there are able to take the first steps towards recovering hope as they weep for their dead and discover the numerous experiences of those who have lost everything they had. Over time, these different groups as well as the Church will continue to channel assistance towards a broader work of reconstruction. Here at the International Office, we have helped from our Emergency Fund and many of our own National MISSIO offices are also actively involved in this coordination to help in their own countries. As missionary animators and National Directors, we know that we join this fraternal crusade for the long haul and let us continue to encourage others to do so. This was so eloquently expressed by little the Holy Father Benedict XVI who wrote in a message dated 16 January, sent to President Rene Preval of Haiti when he said: ‘The Catholic Church, through her institutions, beyond the great emotion that has been evoked, will continue to accompany those tried in this suffering and, in conformation with her efforts, will help them find the possibility of a hopeful future.’(Agenzia Fides 25/01/2010)
So let us continue to pray for the well being all Haitians and especially for our brother Clarck and others who are suffering today. Our Fides agency has continued to give the information as it receives it and this is our official agency.”
In England and Wales, Missio continues its appeal for immediate and long-term support for the people of Haiti. Although not an emergency aid organisation, Missio was already working in Haiti and, in 2009 alone, gave £286,000 towards supporting the work of the Church in basic and preventative healthcare, education, pastoral care and building projects, including major reconstruction in Port-au-Prince after massive flooding. It was not difficult to add a further £290,000 for immediate assistance, knowing that the Catholic parishes across the world would rise to the occasion, coming together to rebuild the shattered island where more than 80% of the nine million people are Catholic.
Mgr John Dale spoke for Missio worldwide: “We give profound thanks to God for the good news of Fr de la Cruz’ survival. We also want to let all Haitians know that, thanks to the generosity of Catholics across the world, Missio will continue to stand alongside the Church in Haiti as it attempts to restore some sense of normality to shattered lives. We will be there with the Religious Orders, who were already ministering to the poor; together we will struggle to attend to the needs of millions with greatly-reduced resources. We will be there for as long as the people of Haiti need us; we help them rebuild their sense of hope and dignity.”
© Caritas Internationalis/Conor O’Loughlin 2010