Thursday, June 8, 2017

Haiti Journal, Day 2 (part 1)

I talked with our partner priest today, Pere Colbert.  We were discussing St. Augustin’s Church and School, as well as plans for the future there.  The bishop has sent a recent graduate from seminary to serve at Maniche, someone Colbert hopes and plans will soon be ordained and assigned to Maniche – just Maniche. 

The fact that this is happening is stunning and merits a little background.  Not so many years ago, St. Augustin’s was a sleepy country parish high in the mountains with a school of 150 or so students.  A lay leader officiated at most Sunday services, and Pere Colbert got there every couple of months to celebrate Eucharist.  Today, the school’s quality has increased its enrollment to about 380.  That growth has led to greater connection with the parents of children attending the school, and church attendance has blossomed, too.  The church is sponsoring celebrations and events for community members, not just its parishioners.  A few weeks ago, they marked the Haitian version of Mother’s Day by offering a celebration and small gifts for any and all mothers who came, parishioner or not – and many, many families came.  Between the school’s quality (highest test scores in the region) and an increasing community focus, the growth has been enough to convince the bishop to assign a seminarian (soon to be priest) there as his single assignment.  Priests in Haiti typically serve three, four, five, or more congregations.  St. Augustin’s at Maniche is growing to the extent the bishop wants to invest in it seriously and devote a priests’ resources to it alone.  The new priest will lead mid-week worship, visit people in his community, and teach religion in the elementary school, as well as all his other work.

About Pere Colbert: His leadership and commitment to rural communities has meant 10 years of focused development for Maniche, and he should receive most of the kudos for this amazing story.  But about the people of St. Andrew’s:  You have helped to make this happen, too.  Your increasing investment – in time, relationship, love, and financial support – has made the difference in St. Augustin’s School becoming an instrument for changing young people’s lives and for demonstrating the value of a church to the community.  Your consistent support for the school’s work (through the Advent fundraiser) has meant it can keep a staff of talented teachers and a devoted headmaster, Samuel, rather than plugging staffing holes with unknown quantities.  And your consistent support for the lunch program has meant we no longer see kids in our school with protein deficiency.  They can learn because they can think, and they can think because they aren’t starving. 

This is what it looks like when a church plays the long game in ministry – and through doing that, changes the world.

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