Fr. Rick Frechette C.P., DO
Ethical and Medical Consultant, NPH International
Advisor, NPFS 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 vulnerable children and the needy.
Born in 1953, Frechette graduated from Assumption College in Massachusetts with degrees in math and philosophy. He attended St. John’s University in New York, 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 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 residential care home for nearly 1,000 vulnerable children. As a priest and administrator, his next calling was to Honduras to help establish a second home 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 infants 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 Haiti and children’s hospice and decided to open a new NPH home. 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 NPH 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. He earned a medical degree in 1998 from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and became a general practitioner licensed in New York and Florida. “The poor 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,” says the doctor-priest.
Frechette's duties include being an advisor to NPH Haiti’s St. Damien 224-bed pediatric hospital, which provides long-term care to critically ill children, comprehensive maternal care, and outpatient services to over 80,000 children and adults each year. Also Fr. Rick advises management and operations of the NPH residential care homes and schools, which serve over 2,000 children. He also founded the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti www.stlukehaiti.org which creates dignified jobs in social service fields including over 30 street schools; delivers water to slums, hospitals, and clinics; and buries unclaimed dead from the city morgue.
Fr. Rick is an advisor for all NPH Haiti programs, serves as an Ethical and Medical Consultant for NPH International, and is a member of the general assembly for the NPH International Board. In 2012, Fr. Rick won the Opus Prize www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnnGbLs5GWo, a faith based humanitarian award that recognizes unsung heroes solving today’s most persistent social problems.
Read “History of the St. Luke Foundation” www.nph.org/ws/page.php?path=news/archive/2011/haiti/historystluke.php to learn more about Fr. Rick’s work in Haiti.