Mike Lattanzi and Susan Silveus are leaving this month to work with a Maryknoll mission in Haiti. Photo courtesy Mike Lattanzi and Susan Silveus

Next mission step on life journey — Haiti

  • January 15, 2023

The life journey of Toronto couple Mike Lattanzi and Susan Silveus has been largely defined by 22 years of cross-cultural service experiences in locales such as Cambodia and Jerusalem.

Now, the married Catholics are set to embark on their latest adventure: a three-and-a-half-year mission trip to Haiti starting this month. 

Their destination in the Caribbean country is Gros-Morne, a rural town that’s name means “big mountain.” Lattanzi and Silveus will complete their work bolstered by the support of the Catholic non-profit mission organization Maryknoll. 

“We really got to know some people from Maryknoll when we were in Cambodia,” said Silveus. “In Catholic terms, we really respected the character of Maryknoll. The way Maryknoll approaches the work is that it’s important to listen to the people on the ground in wherever you are going to figure out the work you will do. We liked that about the organization. We also found its rich Catholic history appealing.”

When they lived in Cambodia from 2007-10, the NGO Silveus worked for, the U.S. bishops’ conference’s Catholic Relief Services, funded a few of Maryknoll’s initiatives to combat HIV and AIDs. She also attended Mass services led by Maryknoll and got to know some of the religious sisters and brothers, priests and lay missionaries.

Silveus and Lattanzi have a rough sketch of the initiatives they will each assist. Silveus is likely to support a non-governmental organization operated by the Religious of Jesus and Mary congregation that focuses on sustainable development. Lattanzi is expected to aid in creating a university extension program centred on agriculture. 

These preliminary plans are not chiseled in stone. It’s well documented that Haiti has some of the highest hunger rates in the Western Hemisphere, lack of access to clean drinking water, fuel shortages and civil unrest. The couple affirms they will be responsive to the needs of the people. 

Lattanzi, an alumnus of St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, said this experience in Haiti will represent another level of cultural immersion compared to their assignments in other countries, which also included appointments in Afghanistan, Egypt and Senegal. 

“We have a lot of cultural experience, but it is also true that when you work at universities, particularly English-language universities, and NGOs, there is a little bit of ‘one-foot-in, one-foot-out’ taking place,” said Lattanzi. “We have worked hard over the previous months to learn more about Haiti’s language and culture as we look forward to doing hands-on work and immersing ourselves at a greater level than we ever have before.”

More language studies’ work will fill their itinerary for the first few months of this long-term mission. They will join two missionaries already on-site.

Silveus and Lattanzi have been blessed with three grown children. One is an aerospace engineer, another is a psychological therapist and the third is a political scientist. 

In a write-up about the Haiti trip shared by Maryknoll, Silveus shed light on why this experience makes sense for the couple at this point in their lives.

“Right now, in our lives — our kids are grown up — we also look forward to being able to do this new commitment together as a couple,” she said. She added that her faith compels her to “doing work in the world that tries, in a very imperfect way, to do what Jesus calls us to do — especially on the side of doing it in a nonviolent way and really being respectful of everyone.”

Lattanzi echoed those sentiments to The Catholic Register, and added that it “is always profound and wonderful to get your eyes opened and come to appreciate how different cultures organize lives and have different ways of doing things.”

On Dec. 10, five weeks before the scheduled departure, Maryknoll hosted a special Sending Ceremony at the Chapel of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Ossining, New York, on behalf of the couple and a five-member missionary family from Sequim, Washington, heading to Tanzania. 

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