Friday, January 15, 2010

A Cry for Help from Haiti

My brother-in-law works for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The Oblates travel the world bringing Christ's message to the poor and needy. In conjunction, the Oblates also do things like teach improved farming techniques, and establish medical clinics, schools, and radio communication centers. They physically and spiritually care for the orphaned, the elderly, and the oppressed.

Haiti has always been a focus of the Oblates, so when the earthquake hit, the Oblates were already there.

Many times when situations like this occur, you'll see communication passed along in emails as legitimate, yet the origin of the communication is usually not what it seems. Here is something altogether different: a letter from an Oblate priest in Haiti that was ultimately passed to my brother-in-law.

Report of Fr. Provincial to Fr. General (15/01/2010 - Haiti)
Port-au-Prince, 14 January 2010
Fr. Wilhelm Steckling, omi
Superior General

Good morning, Father General,

I am using what is left of the battery charge on my laptop to write you this message. You have certainly learned that on Tuesday, 12 January 2010, at 4:53 p.m., a violent earthquake (a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale) passed through Haiti and has practically destroyed the city of Port-au-Prince.

Most of the big buildings have collapsed.

The provincial house was seriously damaged and the new construction (the annex) has collapsed.
The scholasticate has also caved in. The two formators (Frs. Muscadin and Almonor) as well as the two scholastics who were there (Ronel and Johnny), and Fr. Jean-François Printemps who was visiting there, are safe and sound.

The other scholastics were at a conference at CIFOR, being presented by a Brazilian doctor. The CIFOR building collapsed and the conference presenter died, as well as an Oblate scholastic, Weedy Alexis, and a Spiritan scholastic, Stéphane Dougé. Presently, the minibus of the Monfortain scholastics is blocked under the debris, with 14 passengers aboard, 9 of them Montfortains. They can do nothing, up to this point, to rescue them. One of them is alive for his voice can be heard and they are talking with him, but that is all that can be done.

It's a catastrophe, total devastation in Haiti. Since Wednesday evening, the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince have to sleep under the stars, as do we, for there are aftershocks from time to time. Everyone is afraid and we do what we can to take precautions.

There are no means of communication or of information. With a bit of luck, the telephone might work. I have not yet been able to communicate with our confreres in the province.

There is no electricity, no water at the provincial house, no internet. I imagine that it is the same situation just about everywhere in Port-au-Prince.

Yesterday, Father Loubeau and I were obliged to go out onto the streets to get to the scholasticate. Everywhere there is crying, weeping and wailing. The streets are piled high with dead bodies.

There were other collapsed buildings: the Port-au-Prince archbishop's residence, the National Palace, the Cathedral, Sacred Heart church, the Major Seminary at Turgeau, the Major Seminary for philosophy at Cazeau, the Episcopal church of the Holy Trinity and several other large churches and schools, Catholic and Protestant.

It was only yesterday morning that they were able to retrieve the remains of Mons. Joseph Serge Miot, Archbishop of Port-au-Prince. The Vicar General is still under the debris: they no longer hear his voice. A professor at the Major Seminary at Turgeau and three seminarians were trapped inside the seminary. No one can hear them.

Up to this point, they have named eight dead among the seminarians of Cazeau. (But the Oblates at Blanchard and Sibert have been spared).

Some aid arrived yesterday morning from the United States, France and the Dominican Republic. But they cannot do much because there are still the aftershocks. They are saying that the aftershocks should end by Friday evening.

The deceased Oblate scholastic had to be buried yesterday afternoon together with the Spiritan, in the courtyard of the Spiritans (their church and their house were also destroyed). There is no functioning morgue. There is still no help. This morning at 8 o'clock, we are going to have a funeral service together with the Spiritans.

You can understand, Fr. General, that the damages must be immense. One still cannot estimate them, even though the Prime Minister has spoken of about 100,000 deaths. The total is much worse than that for there are still the wounded, the disappeared and the material damages.

Several priests, brothers and religious women are unaccounted for.

Fr. General, this was simply an attempt to describe for you what we are experiencing. Because I must hurry so as not to use up the battery, you can understand that I am unable to tell you everything or respect formalities.

Thank you for your understanding and your solidarity.

We know that you are thinking of us and that you are lifting us up in prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our helping mother.

Fr. Gasner Joint, omi

These words from Fr. Gasener speak for themselves. It is incumbent in these situations that those that have need to give, and the options are many. A great choice is to give to the Oblates themselves, and a link to give can be found here.

The suffering is immeasurable. Please give, and pray.

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