Urgent News from Haiti

We have received word about some of our members located in Haiti and want to update you on their condition.

Carmelite Sisters of Vedruna (Maureen Foltz)

We CCV’s have a community in Fond Parisien, which is on the main route close to the border with the Dominican Republic. Two of our women were in Port-au-Prince at a gathering for religious, and a third was in Fond Parisien. It seems that the group at the meeting were unharmed and our two sisters began a walk back to the community. They took a mountainous route so as to periodically make calls and to try and connect with the outside. They finally managed to do so, and met up at Fond Parisien with some of the sisters who had come from the Dominican Republic. Last evening they were gathering materials so as to go back to the capital today and help with relief work. They are haunted by the voices and cries from the rubble… Tonight one of our sisters from Sto. Domingo is arriving in New York. Perhaps she’ll have more news. Beyond words, this is a huge, horrible disaster.

Filles de Jésus (Rhona Burns)

I’m touched by the messages I’ve received and I know our sisters in Haiti will be, too. We have heard that the sisters in our community in Port-au-Prince are alive and well. Of the house I don’t know; all I know is that they spent the night outside in the courtyard with their neighbours. Strangley enough, the lead article on our website is on our 40 years of presence in Haiti!

Religious of Jesus and Mary (Janice Farnham)

The Religious of Jesus and Mary, a Roman Catholic Congregation of Sisters, have ministered in Haiti since 1997. Two of our sisters and two candidates are presently in Port-au-Prince, and are one with our brothers and sisters, the homeless and injured. Our residence in Port-au-Prince has been severely damaged by the earthquake and the sisters have had to seek shelter elsewhere.

Sister Vivian Patenaude was injured in a fall and may have sustained multiple fractures to her shoulder and arm. Since her injury is not life- threatening she is unable to receive medical attention in Port-au-Prince. We are attempting to fly her to New York for treatment. In spite of these events, we count ourselves very blessed, because we know our sisters are alive and safe. The sisters in Gros Morne and Jean Rabel did feel the shocks even at those distances, but they have sustained neither injuries nor major damage to structures.

The needs of the Haitian people were overwhelming prior to the earthquake. The scope and depth of this tragedy call for both immediate and sustained, long-term intervention. Our commitment to serve in Haiti remains strong, and our intention is to serve the Haitian people over the long haul.

Sr. Eileen C. Reid, the Province leader, has asked the sisters from the other two mission areas to make themselves available as translators, if and when they can get to Port-au-Prince, and to assist in any way possible.

Many of you have inquired about sending donations. Along with prayers, which are sorely needed, we welcome your donations, in any amount. The Religious of Jesus and Mary are setting up a special earthquake relief fund, under the acronym PAPER (Port-Au-Prince Earthquake Relief). Donations can be sent directly to that fund:

c/o Sr. Janet Stolba, RJM
Religious of Jesus and Mary
125 Michigan Ave. N.E. 4th floor
Washington, DC 20017

OR through the RJM US Province website. Correspondence regarding RJM Earthquake Relief may be sent to Janet Stolba.

We know also that many reputable organizations, such as CRS (Catholic Relief Services) and Food for the Poor, along with multiple media websites, have also provided safe and reliable means of responding to what is truly a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

For those interested in volunteering, they may e-mail Theresa Patterson, a woman who has long experience with the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas and is organizing volunteer groups to assist.

Plans are underway as well for a Eucharist to be offered for victims of the earthquake. Details will follow.

Sisters of Bon Secours (Anne Marie Mack)

We do not have any of our people in Haiti, but we are involved in some health-related initiatives. The Bon Secours Health System is at this moment in conversation with the Catholic Medical Mission Board, Catholic Relief Services, and the Diocese of Richmond, VA to plan a coordinated effort of analysis and collaboration to provide assistance. We will keep you informed as efforts develop.

Sisters of the Holy Union (Mary Lou Simcoe)

We have two sisters in Port-au-Prince who work in a parish with the Montfort Fathers. We have learned that they are safe, but nothing more. A sister in the Brooklyn diocese also knows the Montforts (who have a big presence in Port-au-Prince) has heard that all the priests are safe, but they don’t know about some of their scholastics.

Update from Julie Wheatley:

We are very relieved to have spoken with Eli (Sr. Elizabeth Kunsah) personally last night. Eli is a Cameroonian sister who went to Haiti in September to work with two of our sisters in St. Michel (a 6-hr. journey from Port-au-Prince). The sisters in St. Michel are all well, other than having felt tremors during the actual quake and cuts in electricity from time to time. They are continuing their activities as usual. The people in St. Michel, though, have lost many of their children and other family members who live or go to school in Port-au-Prince, so the sisters are very concerned and are with them at this terrible time.

When we spoke with Eli, she had just returned from visiting the sisters in Port-au-Prince and assuring they were alright. Those in St. Michel, like us, had no news whatsoever. Eli arrived and found the sisters and one aspirant who was staying with them. All were well, happy, and appreciative that she had made the journey to see and be with them during this time. Their own house, church, and school, are the only buildings intact in their area. There are a few cracks in the house, but nothing serious. They sleep each night with the rest of the population of their quarter in a field that adjoins a nearby factory. Eli said what one sees on the television doesn’t even come close to reflecting the horror of their reality. The situation for many congregations is very serious and some have lost many members. One group of sisters who are also here in Yaoundé lost several sisters and their school has totally collapsed.

Eileen Davey (our US sister) is moving around assuring herself of the situation with the children of her nutrition centre. They are helping out where ever they can. When Eli arrived, Helen Ryder (the Irish sister who lives with Eileen) had gone out to the local hospital. During the day, they can go into the house and have food. The serious difficulty is water – both drinking and otherwise. Eli said that there are already NGOs in their locality that are distributing necessities. During the night she slept in Port-au-Prince, there was an aftershock at 4am and immediately all the people around them in the field broke into prayer and singing. Mind you, although it’s called a field, she said it was stones that they were sleeping on.

Clearly, we need to continue to pray for all the people of Haiti; but it is so good to know that our sisters are okay and are able to help their people.

Sisters of Saint Anne (Lucille Goulet)

Although it is very difficult to get accurate information, it goes without saying that this earthquake is a disaster. One of our schools is completely destroyed, as well as one of our residences. More information will follow later. For those of you who want to know how the Rest-Avek project is doing in the earthquake, please click on the following link for English: The Earthquake and “Restavek” Population, and the following link for French: Le séisme et la communuté des “Restaveks”.

If anyone would like to make a donation to Haiti relief, we suggest that you go to the website of Catholic Relief Services.