Monday, February 8, 2010

At the Crossroads: Hail, the Spirit of Solidarity in Haiti

By Father Benjamin Alforque, M.S.C., V.F.
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

This is a great journey of the spirit, a privileged communion of souls! Before I left our parish, I had received lots of expressions of support from children and adults, from persons I’ve learned to know, from familiar people and from faces I vaguely remember. A few expressed their fears and concerns for my security in Haiti; a couple thought a formal and official notice of my Haiti trip was necessary to arouse support; and some just kept their quiet. And there were many more who wished they could come along…the MSC Lay Associates…the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns in the U.S….

My sister’s co-supervisors and staff knew it was she who was capable of volunteering for Haiti, and they asked her to bring them t-shirts that say: “I survived Haiti”. Aboard the plane from Miami to Sto. Domingo were volunteers for Haiti: teenagers, young adults and adults, single and married couples! From the different parts of the US and the world, they happily met for the first time, sharing too their little fears that are now overcome by the fact that they are not alone! Some were attached to non-government organizations, others were sponsored by church- and faith-based institutions. Ah, there was David from Pittsburgh. He quit from his job; raised his own funds; and left his family, friends and loved ones. His mother thought that was neat; his father said he was crazy! And Jackson, a Haitian from Jacmel, now a US citizen in Orlando. Like other Haitians in the plane, he was coming home to help his family rise again. Yes, each one bore the spirit of their families, friends, churches, communities and nations: to be in solidarity with the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

At Port-au-Prince I first made an ocular orientation on damage of the city and its suburbs. Buildings, churches, offices, stores and super markets and houses collapsed. Those that did not fall are uninhabitable. People are in “tent cities” spread in the different pockets of empty spaces and huge parks. Young and old people and children are out in the streets; vendors plying their wares in the streets; others are flocking remittance centers for money from abroad. I see people lining up for drinking water. I am told it could be dangerous out there: prisoners from jails are roaming around, armed; people in their tents, hungry and thirsty, could demand food and water from tourist-looking strangers. Traffic is heavy; streets cracked, littered with rubbles. Bulldozers are cleaning up. People are working on the canals, repairing fallen houses, repainting homes. There is much activity, much noise, much gloom, much idleness, much hope, much despair, much confusion, much uncertainty, much life, much death.

Beneath the ruins of a fallen building is a beloved, and a memory of one who is missing, and will be missed, of one who is neither dead nor alive, but is simply gone! Above the ground are the living, haunted by the terror of the tremors, eking out a living, looking for a home, wanting and needing to rise and be whole, once again!

2 comments:

  1. Hi Father Ben. Thanks for sharing your experience with us thus far. Just reading this post reminded me of the powerful sermons you would frequently give. Although your presence is missed terribly at St. Catherine's, it is comforting to know that you will be able to touch the lives of the Haitians as you did us. I'll continue to keep you, your sister, and all those affected by the earthquake in my prayers. God bless.

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  2. Fr. Ben. I am new to St Catherine but have been a part of this diocese as a teacher for almost 3 decades. When I first met you I knew you had a special and healing spirit! A God-given spirit that could bring comfort to a people. And I am reminded that we as the children of God are not always privy to His full plan for our lives but need to be open and prepared when He calls us to action. As I shared your blog with my students at Aquinas High School I remind them that at some time we are all going to be called on to be a David, or a Jackson, or a Fr. Ben. Called to use the spirit of Christ to raise another from dispair. My students are seniors and I remind them that as they step into the world to remember always be ready to give of their gift of the spirit. May God keep you safe and your sister and all who have gone to assist in that country until we meet again.
    Andreanetti Jones, JD.

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