Eight years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti’s villages and thoroughfares, there is new hope in a small town located in the southeastern mountains. Parishioners of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park funded the rebuilding of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in La Montagne thanks to a few particularly large donations.
The church was officially blessed on May 27. More than 1,000 people gathered for the three-hour celebration of Mass. Bishop Launay Saturné of the Diocese of Jacmel celebrated alongside Father Aunel Deone, the church’s pastor, and Father Richard Walsh, pastor of St. Margaret Mary. Originally built in the 1800s, the church was condemned after the quake. However because of limited space, it continued to be the primary sacred meeting space for the faithful community.
St. Margaret Mary Parish has been assisting in Haiti since 2006. When a parishioner explained the potential to serve, Father Walsh seized the opportunity for what he calls “reverse mission.” He explained, “It’s not so much what we’re doing for Haiti, but what they’re doing for us.” Even those working stateside to raise funds come away with more than imagined. Notre Dame de Namur Sister Virginia West, who works with couples preparing for marriage, agreed. “Working there increased my awareness and appreciation of the gifts in my life,” West said.
In the Diocese of Jacmel, there are six chapels and Father Deone travels to each of them while serving the main parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, named after Haiti’s patroness. His community dug ditches and shattered rocks for the foundation, carved pews and worked tirelessly, all without machinery. Father Walsh said, “I grew up in Ireland and it was pretty poor. For me, growing up there was a real struggle that I didn’t appreciate at the time. As you move on in your life, you realize you live in a place where there is more than enough for yourself and it’s time to give back. Haiti is a very appropriate way of doing it.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 20, 2018