By Bro. Richard Cote’ OMI
It was hot and humid on the morning of June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, when a large crowd had gathered in Fondwa, a Créole word for Fond-Oies, for the consecration of their new parish church. The original church, founded by Fr. Real (Joe) Corriveau, OMI (85) was destroyed in the 2010 Earthquake and its temporary replacement was again destroyed in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew. Br. Richard Coté, OMI, Director of Oblate Foreign Missions, Lowell, MA represented the US Province at the dedication.
Through his many contacts in the U.S.A. and in his home parish of Winthrop/Augusta ME, Fr. Corriveau raised over $275,000, for the new construction which is now up to code and enabled to withstand any future catastrophic events. The three and one-half hour Mass saw the participation of the Most Rev. Max Leroy Mesidor, Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, the Oblate Provincial Fr. Ellince Martyr, OMI, Fr. Michard Jean-Jacques, OMI, Pastor, many Oblates, local Clergy and Religious women. A choir of 40 voices sang hymns in Créole while the Mass was celebrated in French. There was a large offertory procession of 15 Haitians, some carrying baskets on their heads containing fruits and produce of the land, plus a live rooster, hen, and goat that were presented to the Archbishop.
While in Haiti, Br. Richard contacted all four of the American Oblates assigned to the Haiti Province. Fr. Michard acted as driver taking Bro. Richard to Les Cayes on the Southern Coast to visit with Fr. Alfred Charpentier, OMI, (73) Director of the Mission Procure in Les Cayes. Unable to attend the 75th anniversary of the Oblates’ arrival in Haiti, in May, Bro. Richard paid a visit to the Cathedral in Les Cayes to pray at the tomb of Most. Rev. Jean-Louis Collignon, OMI, founder of the Oblate Mission in Haiti in 1943. The Oblates continue to be busy in Les Cayes with a High School of 600 students, the Oblate Parish of St. Eugene de Mazenod, Foyer St. Etienne for the elderly poor, and a home for young men.
Bro. Richard visited Fr. Marc Boisvert, OMI, (68) to see the wonderful work he is doing at Powjè Espwa (Project Hope). Despite his frail health he continues to preach mission appeals in the US to support, house, feed and educate some 300 boys. Next, was a visit with Fr. John Henault, OMI (83) who is Director of St. Martha’s Residence for the poor in Gonaives, staffed by the Missionaries of Charity. Upon hearing the noon bell for lunch, all ambulatory residents and children home from school had gathered at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to sing the “Angelus” in Créole. Everyone then retired to the rectory for a good helping of “Shepherd’s Pie” a-la-Haitienne!
Said Bro. Richard, “Of the many graces I received from this visit was to know that the altar stone inserted in the new altar of St. Anthony Church was from the altar in the OMI residence at the now closed Shrine of Our Lady of Grace in Colebrook, NH. The Oblates in Haiti can be proud to say “Van an souflé koté-l vié. Ou tandé bri lap fè. Min, ou pa konnin ki bò-l soti, ni ki bò-l pralé. Sé minm jan an pou tout moun ki fèt nan Léspri Bondié.” The wind blows wherever it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8)