496 - February 2010
February 1st, 2010 - February 28th, 2010



HAITI - Scholastic killed in earthquake

We have learned the sad news that one of the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti is a 28 year old scholastic, Brother Weedy ALEXIS. He was found dead under the rubble of the Center of Studies for Religious after the January 12 earthquake.

General Councillor, Fr. Loudeger MAZILE, says that other Oblates and scholastics in the ruined city have survived.

Fr. Fred Charpentier, who works in Les Cayes, about 100 miles from the epicenter, reports that damage in the Les Cayes region was much less than in Port au Prince. 

The Les Cayes region includes the Proje Espwa (Project Hope) orphanage run by Fr. Marc Boisvert. On Fr. Marc’s blog, we read the story of one of the women who works at the orphanage: “Joey Lamarre’s mother is one of our housemothers. She spoke to Joey who was in class when the earthquake struck yesterday. His professor and two of Joey’s classmates were killed as the walls of the university crashed down. Joey was hurt and was buried for six hours but he was finally freed and brought to a temporary clinic. He may have serious injuries and his mom is going to Port-au-Prince to be with him.” (http://pwojeespwa.blogspot.com/)

Bro. Clausel Germeil, who lives at the provincial house in Port au Prince, e-mailed that he was teaching in a school at the time of the earthquake. The school totally collapsed on him and the students. He was not severely injured. Damage at the provincial house was in a section mostly of offices and not where the Oblates live. The theology house next door was completely destroyed.

HAITI - Letters from the provincial to Father General

15 January 2010

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

18 January 2010

Dear Father General and Council,
Dear Brother Oblates,
Dear friends,

I am in a cybercafé (in a less damaged area of Pétion-Ville) to read your messages. Many thanks for your support. There are three of us here: Frs. Maxime Eugène, Albert Cator and I. Besides the information that I have already sent and which can be read on the Oblate internet site (www.omiworld.org), we are now in the process of evacuating Port-au-Prince. Some residents of the provincial house have already left for Mazenod, Camp-Perrin. The scholastics in theology have been sent to Oblate parishes on the Southern Coast. Those in philosophy are waiting for the opportunity to move to the North.

Our sympathy goes out to the Oblates who have lost members of their family. For most of the other Oblates from Haiti, their close family members are relatively all right and have found shelter somewhere. In Port-au-Prince, everyone is still sleeping outside, a situation that will most likely last at least another month. Now there is the exodus towards other towns.

There is no hope of being able to return to academic activities this year in Port-au-Prince, nor even for public life, since most of the state offices and commercial establishments have either collapsed or have become unusable.

We are planning to move the administrative center of the Province to a safer city, but for that, we are awaiting for specialists to better assess the situation, for they are foreseeing an eventual dominos effect in the other cities as well. And then we need to save what we can at the provincial house and the theology house.

The government has decreed a state of emergency and a month of national mourning (January 17-February 17). It is also promising rapid steps to bring into operation the banks, the communications services and the service stations, but we are still waiting for that to happen.

Again, thanks to Father General and his councilors, to all our Oblate confreres and our friends for your support. 

United in prayer in Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate,

Fr. Gasner Joint, omi

22 January 2010

Dear brother Oblates, 
Dear friends, 

Once again I want to thank each one of you for your words and acts of sympathy on the occasion of the earthquake. I am sorry I have to send another collective message – some are complaining they have not received a personal email. Please understand that, deprived of regular means of communication; I didn’t have any other choice than giving the priority to the most urgent needs. There is no electricity in Port-au-Prince. Besides that, I had to organize the moving of about 30 Oblates from the capital.

I moved to Les Cayes yesterday with two members of the administration (the Bursar who presently doesn’t feel so well and the Director of the Provincial House). In the City of Les Cayes, and in the community of Charpentier which welcomes us, we have electricity (and consequently the possibility of internet connection) only from 7 pm to 5 am. Sure, we are trying to improve our situation, for instance to temporarily relocate the provincial administration office to a place where it can be more functional. But we don’t expect things will begin right away to run on wheels for us as, while the majority of those we left in Port-au-Prince cannot even eat or sleep. In other words, we are trying to do our best, but for the moment we are here in this community sharing their life, their facilities as well as their needs. 

I want to express the gratitude of the Oblates in Haiti to all those, individuals and organisms, who gave or offered financial assistance for debris removal, rebuilding, restructuring or relocating. We highly appreciate your solidarity with us in this catastrophic situation. And be sure that your donations will be most welcome. But in this messy rush in which we find ourselves, we cannot yet evaluate our needs in terms of project or application. Our country is destroyed, and so are our Churches, schools and formation houses. The Oblate scholasticate for theology collapsed; so did the building that housed the provincial administration offices. The provincial house is severely damaged. 

Thanks be to God, many sectors of the international community hurried to the population’s rescue right after the tragedy. But it’s not over yet, since we are still in the aftershock period, and we don’t know for how long.

To any person or organism ready to help us, I suggest that you send your contribution to the following bank account:

Bank Name: TD Banknorth 
Bank Address: 32 Mammoth Road, Lowell, MA 01854
ABA number or Swift code: 211370545
Account Number: 02-5406296. 
Favor of: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Haiti

And we will keep a record of all the expenses in order to let everyone know how their donation helped us cope with this terrible nightmare that suddenly plunged all our families, institutions and plans for the future into the abyss. So, what we lost is beyond all estimation.

But we have not lost Faith, Hope and Love. We know God, though in a mysterious way, is walking at our side. And we ask Him to keep on protecting us and abundantly bless all our friends and benefactors.

Fr. Gasner Joint, omi

HAITI - Oblates’ Pwoje Espwa accepts 100 more orphans

Haiti’s largest orphanage has agreed to welcome over 100 orphans to their village. Named Pwoje Espwa Sud (Project Hope South), the orphanage is located near Les Cayes and is already home to more than 650 abandoned children. The director of the orphanage, Oblate Father Marc Boisvert stated that, “With our staff of 250 and over 140 acres, we have the capacity to handle the extra children left helpless because of this devastation.” The orphans will be coming from Leogane, a town just a few miles west of the earthquake’s epicenter. 

Pwoje Espwa also feeds and educates 1200 other local children. This requires a total preparation and serving of over 4000 meals each day. Boisvert said, “There was a point where we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from but we are starting to see supplies arrive in now.”

Funding for Pwoje Espwa is largely provided by Free the Kids, a United States non-profit organization. Executive Director Jami Vass said: “We are seeing a rapid increase in interest and donations. We believe we will have enough financial resources to feed, clothe, house, and educate these children, thanks to our most generous American friends and the international community.”

For further information: www.freethekids.org

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