Standing with Haiti
Standing with Haiti is a project of St. Anthony and St. Louise Parishes. We are devoted to being a part of enhancing the lives of the people of St. Anne de Hyacinthe Parish in Haiti. We believe in the power of a relationship built on mutual respect, collaborative dialogue, and participating in Haitian cultural norms. Through our relationship, we will come to understand the important and immediate needs of St. Anne’s School and the local parish community, which will guide Standing with Haiti’s distribution of resources. Our goal is to enable sustainable change with a long-term impact, and to leverage local talent and resources whenever possible.
2022 Executive Committee
Chairperson: Dr. Gary German
Coordinator of Communications: Haley McKinley
Coordinator of Fundraising: Michele Jackson and Tim Searing
Coordinator of Visitations: Joe Schreiber
Coordinator of Recruitment: Tim Searing
Recording Secretary: Vangie Lim
Contact for further information: – | Haiti@st-anthony.cc
Our Haiti Story
The Story of the Partnership between the parishes of St. Anthony Renton, St. Louise Bellevue, and St. Anne de Hyacinthe, Haiti
Who is St. Anne de Hyacinthe Parish?
St. Anne de Hyacinthe is a Catholic parish in the diocese of Port au Prince, Haiti. It is about 37 miles west of Port au Prince in the village of Hyacinthe, accessed by way of a paved coastal highway. From the highway turnoff, the village of Hyacinthe is a rough uphill ride on a rutted dirt mountain road about 3 miles long. The road washes out frequently, so at any given time, it is only partially paved. Delegates who have visited St. Anne’s will share vivid memories of the rugged uphill drive to visit our sister parish!
St. Anne’s serves the Catholic community on that mountain, and it has four outlying chapels, each about two-hours walking distance from the church. The parish serves about 7,000 Catholics, and it includes a school to serve the children of the community. The pastor is Fr. (Pe) Josue Seide, who was assigned to the parish in 2010. He serves not only as their priest, but also as doctor, judge, advocate, and advisor to the people, as these services are absent in Hyacinthe.
In the earthquake of 2010, the 100-year-old church was flattened. All that remains is a flat concrete slab that served as its foundation. Parishioners built a simple structure nearby with a tin roof supported by wooden beams and a dirt floor that serves as the church. It has been nearly destroyed in hurricanes in recent years, and parishioners have pitched in to repair and rebuild it. Until 2016, St. Anne’s School was also housed in this space. Six classes of students, approximately 75 students, were housed under this single roof when the first delegation from St. Anthony’s visited for the first time in 2012. The parish and village have had no electricity or plumbing, no refrigeration or running water. Rainwater is captured in cisterns, and is not drinkable, but it is all they have.
At the time of our first visit, the parish did not have the ability to pay its teachers. While there is a tuition for students, there are no income sources for the people. Most villagers live on subsistence farming which provides some food for the people, but when there is not enough, the people go hungry. Because of the poverty, tuition for children’s education regularly goes unpaid.
How our Partnership Began…
St. Anthony Parish took part in an Archdiocesan assessment of Faith Formation programs in parishes in 2009. One of the recommendations that came from that study was that we should establish a connection to a parish in a country beyond our borders. The parish Pastoral Council began to consider the possibilities.
In January of 2010, Haiti was hit by a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake centered about 16 miles west of Port au Prince. Our parish family at St. Anthony’s learned that the granddaughter of parishioners John and Annette Hightower was killed in the earthquake. Molly Hightower, 22 years old, was doing volunteer mission work in Haiti at that time. She was a graduate of Bellarmine High School and the University of Portland. Our parish felt the Hightower family’s tragic loss deeply. Her mission in Haiti, coupled by our search to help a parish outside of our borders served to inspire our eventual involvement there. The poorest country in the western hemisphere was now even further devastated by the death and destruction of the terrible earthquake. St. Anthony Parish would find a way to help in Haiti.
The Pastoral Council and our pastor at the time, Fr. Gary Zender, learned about the One Table Conference to be held in Washington DC by Catholic Relief Services. He attended along with Larry Reymann, Pastoral Council Chairperson. At the conference, they met with Haitian Bishops and clergy, and with Fr. Frank Rouleau, Twinning Director for Outreach to Haiti, a Catholic organization from the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, that facilitates a twinning process for American and Haitian parishes. Our hopes for involvement in Haiti was beginning to take shape!
The first delegation of eight travelers to Haiti from St. Anthony was in October 2012. The Bishop of Port au Prince assigned two parishes from his archdiocese for our team to visit and consider. Both communities were extraordinarily needy, and the team was to return home to begin a prayerful discernment process with parish leadership. The entire delegation ultimately felt called to twin with St. Anne’s. It was the most challenging of the two (enduring the mountain road to get there!), but also the most like our own parish in many ways. When our second group of delegates visited in October 2013, a covenant was signed to establish our partnership.
What is our Covenant with St. Anne’s?
- To strengthen the relationships of friendship between our two parishes so that we may each enrich one another’s human and spiritual lives.
- To encourage prayer and other types of exchanges for one another in our parishes and families.
- That our two parishes will use whatever means are possible and suitable to enrich the lives and faith of our people, especially sharing of pastoral experience and programs.
- To encourage the faithful of each parish to visit each other whenever possible and offer our gifts, talents, service, and love to one another.
- To commit ourselves to a joint committee dedicated to the ongoing dialogue between our two peoples and to assure that this covenant grows in meaning and effectiveness.
- To review and renew this covenant every three/five years.
How has our Twin Parish Relationship Developed over the Years?
The St. Anthony Standing with Haiti Committee was formed in 2013 with the purpose of growing and maintaining the twin-parish relationship and responding to the needs of St. Anne Parish. Each year since its inception (except for the Covid years, 2019-2022), the committee has formed a delegate team of parishioners who travel to Haiti to visit the people of St. Anne’s. Additionally, the committee coordinates an annual visit of St. Anne’s pastor, as well as a major fundraising event. The management of funds is handled by the parish administrator, supported by the parish Pastoral and Finance Councils. During the initial and formative years of our twin-parish relationship, essential support for establishing and developing the committee was provided by Donna Schlager, Pastoral Assistant for Administration, until her retirement in July 2022.
We began in 2013 by supporting Fr. Josue in his need for a vehicle. Prior to our covenant, Father had no vehicle, but had to go into Port au Prince regularly to meet with his Bishop, pick up supplies for the church and school, and do whatever banking he was able to do. He also had to serve four Chapels that were each a two hour walk from the main church. He was able to purchase the truck through a special grant, and we have since provided funding for fuel, repairs, and lots of tires (Again – the notorious mountain road!).
Next, we began to provide for the teacher’s salaries, and bit by bit, we began to take on the various expenses of running the school. We provide funds for uniforms, textbooks, supplies, and other needs. We purchased a propane stove and cooking utensils and dishes, which eventually led to a daily meal program for the students and staff at the school. It is likely the only hot meal they have access to each day. Utilizing funds received from Rice Bowl Grants awarded by the Archdiocese, we were able to purchase dishes, eating utensils, and other serving items needed for the feeding program.
In September of 2016, St. Anne’s opened a new school building a short distance from the current church and rectory. The building was made possible by a grant from the Digicel Foundation in Haiti, but it was awarded to St. Anne’s in part because of the educational funding being provided by St. Anthony’s. Our Sister Parish relationship and the generosity of St. Anthony Parishioners have made this possible!
The 2016 school building housed grades K-6, and our delegate team that year, led by then-pastor Fr. Jack Shrum, visited the facility within a month of its opening. Since that time, St. Anthony has provided additional funding to add one classroom each year up to grade 12. In 2021, the twelfth grade was completed. The school facility now houses approximately 350 students in grades K-12, a separate kitchen, library, cistern, and bathrooms with running water. In June 22, St. Anne School celebrated its first graduating class!
While there are a few other schools that serve the people of Hyacinthe, St. Anne’s is the only religious school in the area that does not require families to join the church in order to attend. Since its completion, it has provided increased safety and stability for families, as students no longer have to travel to more dangerous cities to continue their high school education. Additionally, families can remain together in Hyacinthe. St. Anne School has also provided jobs to the community, specifically for teachers and support personnel.
The completion of the school was determined to be our mission from the time the construction grant was awarded. Our commitment now is to the ongoing funding of the school. This is a large responsibility! In 2021, our pastor Fr. Tom Belleque invited St. Louise De Marillac Parish in Bellevue to join us in this partnership, and they have become a part of our team.
Beyond the financial support we provide to St. Anne’s is a deepening bond of a spiritual friendship that is strengthened each time we send delegates to Haiti to visit. The children remember us, and we are moved by the joyful and generous hospitality of the people. We share together in the Eucharist at Mass. They pray for us, and we pray for them. Their infectious love and many needs have brought our parish together in new ways as we work together to help our friends in Haiti.
“What you did for the least, you did for me.”Matthew 25: 35-36
Ste. Anne Pastor Visits to St. Anthony Parish:
Prayer for the People of Haiti
Out of the depths we cry to You, o God.
We cry to you for our Haitian sisters and brothers.
We thank you for upholding them in their suffering.
Give them continuing strength and comfort.
Give us love and courage to stand with them and work with them
As they struggle for justice and freedom.
Keep us committed to the truth, and empower us with Your Spirit of love:
A love that always sees possibilities for peace founded on justice;
A love that seeks justice without vengeance and retaliation;
A love that reaches out to enemies as Jesus taught us.
We trust in Your continuing mercy as we bring to you our own desire
to be in active solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters.
(Sung) O Lespri Sen desaan sou nou; nou gen youn mission pou Ayiti.
(Translation: O Holy Spirit descend on us: we have a mission for Haiti.)