Haiti still needs prayer, support

Published 11:44 pm Friday, January 14, 2011

More than a year after a devastating earthquake shook the country of Haiti, parishioners at St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church in Suffolk still are working to help the country.

However, it’s been a rough road for the church and its Haiti committee, which have been involved in ministry to Haiti for years. The church is “twinned” with Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Belladere, Haiti, about 40 miles east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by the quake.

Paul Fletcher, the chair of the church’s Haiti committee, described a heartbreaking attempt to get to the country in December that ended with the team returning home from Florida.

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“As soon as we got off the plane [in Miami], the airline is calling us telling us that all flights to Port-au-Prince have been canceled,” Fletcher said. The recent violence and cholera outbreak caused the cancellations.

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, destroyed countless buildings and caused casualties estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

As part of the twinning project, the St. Mary’s team makes regular visits to Haiti to check on the progress of a school building it sponsors there, help with ministry and deliver supplies.

The country town of Belladere is growing with more and more people because they have moved away from the devastation of Port-au-Prince, Fletcher added.

“There are more people in the town now that basically need help,” he said.

The failed trip in December was particularly disappointing because the team was carrying Christmas gifts and candy for the children, backpacks filled with school supplies and letters to Haiti churches from their twin parishes in America.

Fletcher said the postal service in Haiti is highly unreliable, especially outside of the capital, so the only way to ensure supplies and letters get to their intended destination is to deliver them by hand.

“You might as well just forget about that,” Fletcher said of trying to mail the letters.

The church is keeping the supplies and gifts for its next journey but gave the candy to an abused women’s shelter so that it wouldn’t be wasted.

“We can always get more candy,” he said.

The church’s next move — besides constant prayer for the people of Haiti — is its annual Haiti solidarity week Feb. 6-12. The church will host a fundraising dinner and other activities.

Fletcher hopes to try to visit the country in March.

“If I can’t make it in March, we’re going to try to bring [the priest in Belladere] up here for a week,” Fletcher said.

The church will set its exact schedule for Haiti solidarity week activities soon. Check its website at www.stmarysuffolk.org.