Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dubuquers Help Haitians In Crisis

St. Anthony Catholic Parish reaches out to the victims of recent storms

On Monday, when a Dubuque man finally got through to his friend, a Catholic priest in Haiti, the clergyman was walking his town's ruined streets looking for food -- not for himself, but for his hungry parishioners and others who are begging at his rectory door.

Mel Harvey has been to Haiti a dozen times with teams from his church, St. Anthony Catholic Parish. For nearly 20 years, St. Anthony has had a sister-parish relationship with St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Harvey heard for the first time from the Rev. Rams Lapommeray about how four recent storms decimated his parish and six rural mission parishes under his guidance.

"They got rain from all four, but the last two hit them square on," Harvey said, and inundated the town with 9 feet of floodwater. People fled to their rooftops and ran to the church for shelter. Finally, the floodwaters have receded, but what little the residents had is gone, and some face starvation.

"Some helicopters have landed, but they don't hold much. No boats have docked. The people are rebuilding the roads by hand to get relief trucks in," Harvey said. The situation in the surrounding rural areas is even worse, he was told.

"Traveling in the countryside is impossible -- there is mud everywhere, the creeks are full and large trees have fallen across the roads, but there are no saws or axes to cut them up," Harvey said.

To help their desperate Haitian friends, the members of St. Anthony's Haiti Fund committee started asking for money and taking up special collections during weekend Masses. They raised $5,000 quickly and sent it to Lapommeray through a bank account, and they will continue to accept donations.

"This is just to keep the people alive. Then we have to figure out what we can do next -- get seeds for the farmers or send the medical team down early or ...." Harvey said. "Long-term answers are so far away."

In October, Harvey will represent St. Anthony Parish at the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas conference in Indianapolis. He expects to come back with new ideas about how to better help St. Montfort Parish through this crisis.

Source: ThOnline.Com

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