[Europe.justus] Episcopal News Service - Haiti synod meets

Pierre Whalon pwhalon at mac.com
Tue Feb 1 11:46:58 GMT 2011


Diocese of Haiti meets in second post-quake annual synod

Participants called to join hands to rebuild the church

By Mary Frances Schjonberg, January 26, 2011
[Episcopal News Service -- Cange, Haiti] Meeting under the theme of "Men nan men pou nou rebate legliz la" (Hand in hand for us to rebuild the church), members of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti gathered Jan. 25-26 at Eglise Bon Sauveur here for their 114th synod.
"Hand in hand, we will do this together," Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin told the synod's first session the evening of Jan. 25, adding that all members of the diocese must be empowered to do the work of rebuilding.

This is the second diocesan synod since large parts of Haiti were devastated by a magnitude-7 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. Both have taken place at Bon Sauveur, which is located in the midst of the Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante complex. The project, which began as a small community clinic in 1985, now offers a range of health services including a 104-bed hospital with two operating rooms. It is one of the largest non-governmental providers of health care in Haiti, according to its website. It has 11 sites other than Cange on the Central Plateau and the Lower Artibonite regions. Zanmi Lasante employs about 4,000 people, most of them Haitians.

The project has its roots in the work of the Rev. Fritz LaFontant who retired to Cange after serving for many years in Mirebalais and saw the residents' need for medical care. The Diocese of Upper South Carolina is an early and continuing partner in Pere LaFontant's ministry, first in Mirebalais and then in Cange. One of the oldest priests in the diocese, LaFontant was honored during the synod's opening Eucharist.

The Rev. Rosemari Sullivan, one of two special coordinators for Haiti appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, told the synod's opening Eucharist that her call to work with the diocese is "clear and compelling."

The Rev. Joseph Constant, the second special coordinator and a Haitian native who grew up attending Episcopal schools in the diocese, translated Sullivan's sermon into French. The third member of the team is another Haitian native, Margareth Crosnier de Bellastaire, who works in the treasurer's office at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The goal of the three-person team, Sullivan said during her sermon, is to help coordinate the work of the diocese "and the desire of so many to work with you in recovery and reconstruction.

"In this Trinitarian approach we hope to serve with you in realizing the potential of our church, our diocese and the people of Haiti," Sullivan said.

Sullivan gave the diocese a clay chalice and paten that was a gift from her mother when Sullivan was ordained. Echoing the reminder from 2 Corinthians 4:7, part of the day's epistle reading, that "we have this treasure in clay jars," Sullivan said she was giving the diocese the chalice and paten "as a sign and symbol that although much is broken and one day this small gift may be broken, God's power, God's extraordinary power, is not broken. Together, God uses us, his clay jars whether ordained or lay, to communicate his extraordinary power."

The Eucharist featured an offertory procession of dancers and costumed Haitians bearing other gifts in addition to money, ranging from fruits and sugar cane to live chickens and a rooster that crowed during the rest of the service.

"We're not a rich country ... that's not who we are," Constant told Episcopal News Service in explaining the custom. Even the poorest Haitian can usually find sugar cane or mangoes, he said, and thus "the offertory we bring forward, we bring out of our scarcity."

The diocese last met in synod during Easter Week 2010 April 6-7, also at Bon Sauveur, for what was an earthquake-delayed annual meeting under the theme "Ayiti Leve Kanpe Pou ou Mache, Haiti, Stand Up and Walk." During that gathering, Duracin declared "since we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe in the resurrection of all of us and of Haiti."

One of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church's 12 overseas dioceses, Haiti is numerically the largest diocese in the church with more than 100,000 Episcopalians in 169 congregations who before the quake were served by just 32 active priests, nine retired priests, six deacons, three nuns and 17 seminarians.

Prior to the earthquake, the diocese ran a network of 254 schools that taught more than 80,000 Haitians from preschool to university level. Other institutions included a school for handicapped children, a trade school, a music school, a two-year business school, a nursing school that granted the first baccalaureate degrees in the country in January 2009, a seminary and a university. A renowned philharmonic orchestra and children's choir were based at the cathedral and both are still performing. The diocese also provided medical clinics, development projects and micro-financing efforts.

The quake destroyed 71 percent of the diocese's churches, 50 percent of its primary schools and 80 percent of its secondary schools, according to details of the Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the Diocese of Haiti (Phase 1), which was released in early November during a meeting of many of the diocese's current mission partners. Seventy-five percent of its higher-educational facilities must be demolished and 33 percent of the rectories, convents and guesthouses are seriously damaged and also must be destroyed. Also lost were the bishop's house and the diocese's income-producing condominium building. Many of the schools are now operating, albeit in temporary and sometimes open-air facilities.

The cathedral complex once contained Holy Trinity Music School, Holy Trinity Professional School, primary and secondary schools, and St. Margaret's Convent, a convent of the Sisters of St. Margaret, as well as the church with its world-renowned murals depicting biblical stories in Haitian motifs, which were crafted by some of the best-known Haitian painters of the 20th century.

The reconstruction plan released in November predicted that the first phase of post-earthquake reconstruction and development for the entire diocese will cost close to $197 million. The report estimated it would take $34.7 million to rebuild the cathedral and another $49.9 million to rebuild its adjacent complex of schools and the convent. The Episcopal Church recently launched a fundraising campaign to support the initial phase of the cathedral rebuilding.

The 2011 meeting came amid concern over the surprise return to Haiti Jan. 16 of Jean-Claude Duvalier. The former leader, known as "Baby Doc," was taken into custody Jan. 18, charged with embezzlement and corruption, and then released. A judge is still deciding whether Duvalier will face trial. On Jan. 19, four Haitians filed suit against the former "president-for-life," charging him of torture and other crimes against humanity.

Observers have noted the timing of Duvalier's return. The country is awaiting a now-postponed presidential run-off election. Rioting during early December in the capitol of Port-au-Prince ensued when the initial decision was made on which candidates would be on the run-off ballot after the initial election in November.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy told the U.N. Security Council Jan. 20 that "it is of paramount importance that the current political crisis is brought to a swift conclusion so that the government and people of Haiti can focus on the challenges of reconstruction and recovery."

Le Roy said that the country's Provisional Electoral Council must abide by the findings and recommendations of the Organization of American States which Préval invited to examine the election process, but whose findings he is reportedly now questioning.

Duvalier's return was the latest in a series of blows to the country's stability since the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left more than a million homeless, most of whom are still living in tents or worse.

Since that day, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was dealt a glancing blow by a hurricane, rocked by the post-presidential election violence and burdened by a rare cholera outbreak which the Haitian Health Ministry said had killed 3,481 people as of Dec. 29 and sickened more than 157,000 cases, according to a United Nations report.

A peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, currently has nearly 12,000 military and police personnel on the ground. It has been in Haiti since mid-2004 after then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. There have been speculation and accusations since nearly the beginning of the cholera outbreak that the disease was brought into the country by Nepalese members of MINUSTAH. A frequent bit of Creole graffiti seen in Haiti this week is a variation of "Mullet = Kolera," referring to Edmond Mullet, the head of MINUSTAH.

LeRoy told the Security Council Jan. 20 that the country is "at a crossroads," adding that "the choices made in coming days will determine whether the country continues to move forward along the path to stability and long-term development."

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Pierre Whalon
14 rue Mignet
75016 Paris France

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