Fr. Rick Frechette, CP
The Strength of Our Mission
December 14, 2011 - Haiti
Many people have asked what gives us the stamina to carry out our mission, in the face of ongoing and relentless tragedy. I always answer easily that it is the friendship among us as we share the burdens together, the sense of humor we cultivate as a wonderful balm for anguish, and the power of prayer, that keep us going.
Since you all know what friendship and laughter are, let me share with you the power of a prayer of our Judeo-Christian heritage. It is a prayer we have recited over and over again for the many dead we bury each day. It is as much a prayer for the survivor as it is for the dead.
The most amazing aspect of this prayer for the dead is that it doesn't mention death. The Mourner's Kaddish (literally Orphan's Kaddish from the Aramaic) instead focuses on the Greatness of God. In this prayer, we also pray for peace between nations, peace between individuals, and peace of mind.
It was hard to find peace of mind in these many months following the earthquake and cholera. But the Kaddish helped us to find it. The same teams and people who worked frantically after January 12th to quell the increasing disasters of death and destruction, wound up creating long-lasting and sustainable programs that would leave Haiti better prepared for hardships sure to come. At the same time, our older programs that we started a quarter of a century ago continued to grow and expand to meet the need of a country struggling to find its way to a better future.
To consider the power of prayers, remember that the Haitian members of our teams were working toward these goals while grieving deep personal loss of loved ones and home, and, amazingly, found the strength do to so.
To show what was achieved by this stamina, the combined medical systems of St. Luke and NPFS now treat over 100,000 patients a year. A new hospital in Cite Soleil, St. Mary Star of the Sea, will treat an additional 36,000. The St Luke Medical Center of Tabarre is now a 15-building complex, complete with a state of the art orthopedic surgery center and the St Philomena Trauma and Disaster Wing. St Damien continues to do outreach to the 15 tent cities surrounding the hospital. 20,000 patients have been treated for cholera as of this writing.
The education system prospers too—30 schools that serve over 10,000 students, outreach programs to the most desperate and desolate and housing for those with no shelter.
"May there be abundant peace from heaven," says the Kaddish. Peace in the time of cholera? How does that happen? Even without cholera, how does one find peace in a world of poverty and despair?
When we consider the difficult plight of so many members of our human family, the world understands fully what it is to do "your best", and pardons "partial response according to ones means."
God does not understand this. God expects us to go far beyond just our best, even to the laying down of our own life if necessary, to help those in trouble. God expects us to count on the huge strength we have when we stand together, united and interwoven, and the wonders God works among us through the simple miracle we call sharing: sharing the sorrow, the sweat, the heat of the day, our dreams, and our resources.
Those suffering from the humiliation of poverty, sickness and disaster, cannot go on without help. "Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted," is His name says the Kaddish. We can't exalt God by pretending those who need us most are not really there.
The Haitain people are not known for being knocked down and not getting up again. They are not known for cursing the day they were born and preferring death to the precious gift of even a battered life. Songs and hymns rise to the heavens constantly in this land. The Haitian spirit is a beacon of hope.
And so we finish 2011, mourning the many who have died in the embrace of our mission, and lamenting the inequality of life that still leads so many more to succumb to the deadly consequences of poverty and ignorance.
Yet knowing that the only way towards God's peace is to work for justice, striving all the while to help in charity, we must walk in friendship, laughter and prayer with those who need our help.
Let there be peace between us, individually. Let there be peace among our nations. Let there be peace in the hearts all of us who, though scattered around the world, are committed to using the rest of 2011 and the long days of 2012 to building a better world.
The God who is above "all the praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world," will help us find a way together.
More information about the NPH Haiti and St. Luke Foundation programs.
Fr. Rick Frechette, CP
National Director, NPH Haiti