Haiti is a country with a complicated history and many challenges. It has faced political instability and relentless natural disasters. Its people have had to overcome extreme poverty, starvation, dehydration and a myriad of other sorrows. Still, the people of Haiti possess a unique beauty and strength of character.
I’ve seen this most vividly and recently in the endurance of Haitian Catholics in ministry – those who have dedicated their lives to serving their suffering brothers and sisters as representatives of Christ. In this commitment and dedication to others, these Catholic leaders have revealed God’s loving nature to the entire nation.
Consider Father Yves Cherelia as a case in point. He leads the prison ministry in Cap Haitien. Conditions in that prison are extreme and the prisoners there suffer acutely, but Fr. Cherelia visits almost every day, bringing medicine, water, hygiene items – and hope. His consistency and loving spirit give prisoners a glimpse of something beyond the prison walls. A ray of light. A potential path to a brighter future.
Father Yves Cherelia’s prayers and advocacy are priceless assets in a place where people have nothing to call their own.
Sister Iselande Surlin is another living saint. She radiates love and joy. She helps run St. Therese Home in Ouanaminthe, and it is a very challenging task. Her ministry welcomes in suffering children from various walks of life. Most have been abused, trafficked, separated from their families and taken advantage of, and they bear the scars of these hardships. Sr. Iselande makes it her mission to see the children smile. She prays for each one, and her inspiring ministry is clearly a reflection of Christ’s own heart.
Then there is Sr. Nadege Pierre. She oversees the school for the Mary Louise Bayle Center. Much like Sr. Iselande, Sr. Nadege emanates the light of Christ. Her contagious smile brightens the life of each student and teacher she encounters. At times, she has had to work under adverse conditions – in hot, overcrowded classrooms filled with students who were restless and uncomfortable – but she has always remained faithful to the children and to her calling in Christ.
These are just three of our incredible Catholic brothers and sisters who inspire me. In Haiti, there are many others like them, and they all deserve our love and support as they pour themselves out for the benefit and blessing of the poor.