On behalf of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Latin America, Diocese of Orlando’s Bishop Thomas Wenski left town this morning to attend the funeral Mass of Haiti’s Archbishop Serge Miot, along with Fr. Andrew Small.
The funeral Mass is also representative of the still undetermined number of fallen victims -including many among the Catholic clergy- from the recent earthquake that devastated the island nation of Haiti.
Bishop Wenski, who is fluent in both Spanish and Haitian Creole, regularly preaches and celebrates Mass in both languages. He also has a long history of service and ministry to the Haitian community in Florida, as well as in Haiti.
In fact in 1979, he was assigned to the newly established Haitian Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Miami and continued as director of the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center until he was ordained as bishop. He also served as pastor to three Haitian missions within the Archdiocese of Miami -Notre-Dame d’Haiti in Miami, Divine Mercy in Fort Lauderdale, and St. Joseph in Pompano Beach. In 2004, Governor Jeb Bush had appointed the bishop to the Governor’s Task Force on Haiti.
I am hoping to attend the funeral for Archbishop Miot whom I had known for 30 years. I attended his ordination at the cathedral where this funeral Mass will be celebrated. His funeral symbolically marks the funerals for all the numbers of countless people who have died under the rubble or are buried in unmarked graves. This brief trip will allow me to assess the needs of the local Church in Haiti going forth as they attempt to continue to minister to their people. [Bishop Wenski]
Having called for a special collection for Haiti’s relief and recovery from all the parishes within the Diocese of Orlando for the weekends of January 16-17 and 23-24, as well as for special prayers of the faithful during all Masses, the Most Rev. Bishop Wenski hopes to be able to assess during this trip on the best way possible to come to the aid of those who are most needy in Haiti.
Since the population of Haiti is considered to be 99% Catholic, the people will need spiritual Christian care as much as physical or medical care. The Haitians -as a people- are highly spiritual and possess deep traditional Christian values that need ministering, particularly of the Sacraments, to help in their healing and recovery as full persons in the image and likeness of our Father in Heaven. Their need goes well beyond material provisions, such as food, medicines, clothing and shelter, though they obviously desperately need these as well.
Jesus answered, It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ [Matthew 4:4]
As part of the Catholic Social Justice Teaching, it is not really about helping the poor, but about becoming poor with them in spirit in order to be more helpful. Only by putting ourselves in their perspective and empathizing with them will we be able to truly be of help in their healing and recovery.
It is a call to manifest that we truly are believers –and because of it– that we truly have faith, hope and love.
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