Director of Medical Services, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos™ International
Fr. Rick and Fr. Wasson in Haiti
When Rick Frechette became a Passionist priest in 1979, his goal was to minister to the spiritual health of humanity. Little did he know that one day he would also minister to the physical health of orphaned children and the needy.
Born in 1953, Frechette graduated from Assumption College in Massachusetts with degrees in math and philosophy. He next attended St. John’s University in New York and studied theology as a seminarian, and was ordained a priest in 1979. After a few years as a parish priest in Baltimore, he met Fr. William B. Wasson, founder of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos™ (NPH, Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) and worked in Mexico in 1983 at an old hacienda that had been converted to a home for nearly 1,000 orphaned and abandoned children. As a priest and administrator, his next calling was to Honduras to help establish a second orphanage for NPH.
Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity in Haiti directed Fr. Rick to the next turning point in his life. The sisters were caring for babies born of dying mothers, frequently sick with AIDS. Many of the babies did not survive, but those who did needed care, love and a place to live. Fr. Wasson and Fr. Rick visited the poor country and children’s hospice and decided to open an orphanage. Today, Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs (NPFS, French for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) survives amidst political chaos, economic disaster and uncontrollable crime.
Despite the obstacles, Fr. Rick is determined to make a difference in the lives of children. During particularly violent years of embargo, when it was suggested that the NPFS staff leave Haiti, Fr. Rick said, “How could we leave the children? What kind of shepherd would leave when the wolf comes?”
Making a difference meant going to medical school to learn how to minister to the children’s physical needs, which resulted in his medical degree in 1998 from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, and becoming a general practitioner licensed in New York and Florida. “The poor people have scant access to medical care; even if they are lucky enough to get evaluated at a clinic, both scarcity of medicines and their relatively high prices prevent their getting treatment. Our own working conditions, especially in the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince, are tragic and deplorable. We have little water, no electricity, and few medicines or supplies,” states the doctor-priest.
Frechette's duties include overseeing NPH Haiti’s St. Damien 150-bed pediatric hospital, which provides long-term care to critically ill children and outpatient services to over 95,000 children and adults each year. Also Fr. Rick oversees the management and operations of the NPH orphanages called St. Helene and Fr. Wasson Angels of Light, which serve over 2,000 children. He also founded the St. Luke Foundation which creates dignified jobs in social service fields including 29 street schools, water delivery to the slums, hospitals and clinics and burying the unclaimed dead from the city morgue.
Fr. Rick is the National Director of NPH Haiti, overseeing an extensive array of programs, serves as the Medical Director of NPH International and is a member of the general assembly for the NPH International Board. In 2012, Fr. Rick won the Opus Prize, a faith based humanitarian award that recognizes unsung heroes solving today’s most persistent social problems.