20th Anniversary Issue! The 20th anniversary of the Haiti Mission will be celebrated in Haiti on Sunday, October 29, 2017. So, in this issue we highlight the remembrances of many who served in the Haiti Mission over the last 20 years.
RJM in Haiti: An Overview
- Summer 1996
The US Religious of Jesus and Mary, at their Chapter meeting, unanimously vote to open a mission in Haiti.
Srs. Jacqueline Picard and Vivian Patenaude settle in Gros Morne and are joined by Sr. Patricia Dillion some months later. They were welcomed by Fr. Ronel Charelus, SMM to Notre Dame de la Chandelier Parish, and enter into pastoral work, education, health care, community organizing, and agricultural and ecological projects. After several years, the purchase of land and the building of a home enables the community, ‘Kay Jezi Mari,’ to receive volunteers, visitors from “twinning” parishes, and many others who come to learn and give their help.
Sr. Nazareth Ybarra of the JM Province of Castile, joins Srs. Jackie, Vivian and Pat in Gros Morne, and their ministries expand to the training of artists, who are also helped to market their goods.
Srs. Nazareth & Vivian open a second mission in the town of Jean Rabel, located in the Northwest Diocese of Port-de-Paix. Sr. Nazareth establishes a thriving ‘atelier’ (workshop), where women are taught to sew and create other goods for marketing. Sr. Vivian continues her pastoral and educational work, now including the creation of educational opportunities for RETAVEKS.
Sr. Rose Kelly from the RJM Province of Ireland brings an expansion of the outreach in Jean Rabel. Collaborating with “Foi et Joi,” a Jesuit-sponsored education enterprise, Sr. Rose supervises the establishment of many pre-schools, some of which subsequently add higher grades.
The motive of providing an environment to foster and nurture Haitian vocations, prompts a move to Port-au-Prince and the subsequent purchase of a house there. Under the guidance of Sr. Vivian, young Haitian women share community life, and receive guidance in discerning their vocation. In August, Sr. Vivian is joined by Sr. Isabel Sola (‘Isa’) from the JM Province of Barcelona.
Life and ministry in Port-au-Prince is massively changed and re-directed by the catastrophic earthquake. In response to the many needs brought about by this disaster, Sr. Isa opens a prosthetic clinic.
Sr. Vivian moves back to the States, and Sr. Isa continues to supervise the work of the clinic, gradually passing on responsibilities to lay collaborators.
Sr. Isa continues supervision of the clinic, establishes a group of JM Lay Associates, and helps in a mobile clinic. She also guides the formation of a young Haitian RJM postulant, Middia Doute.
- September 2016
Isa’s shocking murder comes as a stunning and tragic blow, not only to her community, family and friends, but to all who hear of it. Her legacy remains, not only in the service she gave, but most powerfully in her unconditional commitment to the mission she loved.
As we look back on these two decades of service in this poorest country of our hemisphere, many sisters remember the moment when the question was put to the members of the Provincial Chapter: Shall we open a mission in Haiti? It was the RJMs there who said, with one voice, YES! But that yes has been echoed, expanded, made infinitely more fruitful by a multitude of “partners in mission”: volunteers who have come, often returning repeatedly, to put their gifts at the service of the people; donors who have given, generously; advocates who have solicited help and channeled resources to those in need; and finally, all those have faithfully offered their support in prayer for this mission.
St. Claudine said it well:
“When we go alone on a long journey, we have only ordinary means to help us. But when several go together, there is assurance, courage, and fresh support.” To all who have ‘gone together’ with us,
THANK YOU! MESI ANPIL!