Spiritan News

Spiritan Parish in Virginia Celebrates 20 Years of Friendship and Service in Haiti

St. Joseph's

St. Joseph’s presented OLQP with a painting that depicts both churches, bonded by a handshake, and captioned “Two parishes become one for life.” It was painted by a student from Medor who is now studying art in Port au Prince. Photo courtesy of Dr. Sue Carlson.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Church (OLQP) in Arlington, Virginia, one of more than 20 Spiritan parishes scattered throughout the United States, takes the Spiritan commitment to global ministry to a whole new level.

On October 22, 2017, OLQP celebrated its 20th anniversary of “twinning” with St. Joseph’s in Medor, Haiti. The two congregations were paired in 1997, when Fr. Jeff Duaime, C.S.Sp., then pastor at OLQP, requested a parish with challenges that other parishes might find too difficult to partner with.

According to their quarterly newsletter, The Advocate, “They had faith that OLQP would be able to climb the mountain to St. Joseph’s (both literally and figuratively!), one of the most inaccessible parishes in the twinning program, a place without roads, running water, sewage system, or an electrical grid.”

Since 1997, the parishes have worked together to improve health, education, energy, and local development in Medor. Some highlights of the many accomplishments are expanding a primary school of only 320 students to include a secondary school, now educating 3,000 students in grades K-13.

OLQP gave St. Joseph’s a painting that depicts St. Joseph, patron saint of Medor’s parish; Mary, patron of OLQP; Jesus, who unites the two churches in love; as well as the Holy Family riding on a mule — a mode of transportation easily relatable in Medor.

Where once no student was educated beyond the sixth grade, now dozens of graduates in Medor are even able to attend university. Lifesaving health programs have been implemented, including a school lunch program, a water purification program, and installation of household latrines called arbor-loos.

Countless initiatives have increased selfsufficiency, including an agro-forestry program and a solar energy program. Spiritan priest, Fr. Joseph Philippe, C.S.Sp. (pictured above), who has ministered among the poorest communities in Haiti for 30 years, has launched the 3Legs initiative, through his organization, the Association of Peasants of Fondwa.

The goal of this program is to empower rural Haitian communities to create sustainable wealth and improve livelihoods. Dr. Sue Carlson, MD, chair of the Haiti committee at OLQP and volunteer Executive Director of the Raising Haiti Foundation, along with five parishioners from OLQP, made the trip to Medor for the anniversary celebration in October.

Festivities included a dedication ceremony at a tree nursery, visits with children in each classroom, and a celebratory Mass led by Père Daniel, the first resident priest in Medor, and Père Luckson, the current pastor at St. Joseph’s.

The two parishes gifted each other with meaningful paintings to commemorate their inspiring and mutually-fulfilling journey together.

More information on programs happening in Medor can be found in The Advocate newsletter, available for download at OLQPVA.org.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2017 One Heart, One Spirit newsletter.