People walk past damaged buildings Oct. 9 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Port-a-Piment, Haiti. CNS photo/Andres Martinez Casares, Reuters

Haitian Jesuits are hopeful, but fear the worst

  • October 12, 2016

TORONTO – Safe, dry and well fed on a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend in Toronto was an awful feeling for Haitian Jesuits cut off from their families as their island nation staggers back to its feet.

“I cannot find words to describe how bad I feel,” said Jesuit Pierre Edward Luc.

“My own mother and father and nieces are in Grande-Anse (on the southern coast of Haiti that bore the brunt of the storm),” said Jesuit Jean Bertin St. Louis. “We have had no news from them since last Monday… That is a terrible situation, living with such uncertainty and seeing through the Internet the images and videos of those people who had been carried by the flood.”

St. Louis and Luc are both studying theology at Toronto’s Regis College, the last stage in 13 years of Jesuit preparation for ordination. They answered questions from The Catholic Register by e-mail.

As Hurricane Matthew bore down on Haiti, the last phone call St. Louis had from his father was all about hope and hanging on. In Creole, his father told him, “N ap eseye kenbe gras Bondye,” meaning, “We try to hold life (or keep living) with God’s grace.”

“This was a message of hope that was consoling for me. I stand on it,” said St. Louis. “However, my hope is that Canadians and many other fellow brothers from different countries will rally to the Haitians’ aid, supporting them spiritually and morally.”

Glued to the Internet, trying to construct an accurate picture of the aftermath, St. Louis is worried.

“The damage caused by the storm appears to go beyond our resources and the abilities of people to face them,” he said.

For Luc, the reminders of the 2010 earthquake are overwhelming.

“I feel strong desolation and pain for that natural disaster,” he wrote. “I am really panicked and terrified because it was the same thing that happened during the earthquake in 2010 in terms of communication. I am telling myself that Haiti is not cured and recovered from the trauma of the earthquake.

“How can we live such a painful and tragic moment?”

Luc’s own family is spread between Grand Anse, Jeremie and Port au Prince, but devastated Jeremie (“the greenest part of Haiti”) is home.

“It is depressing because it seems like there is no life in the area touched by the hurricane,” said Luc. “There is a reality of despair because we cannot communicate with our relatives and friends in the areas affected by the hurricane.”

The first thing Haitians want from Canadians is their prayers, Luc said.

“As Haitians, we strongly believe that God’s grace and providence is always acting within us in all the circumstances of our life to make everything better,” he said.

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