Seton parish's Haitian sister church is financially poor, spiritually rich


October 01, 2002|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HAITI IS a long way from Crofton. The tiny Caribbean country lies 500 miles off the coast of Florida. And life in Haiti - the poorest country in our hemisphere -is very different from life in Anne Arundel County.

This month, Crofton's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church took a major step in bridging the gap between these two very different places.

Seton has established a sister parish relationship with Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Liancourt parish, Haiti. As sister parishes, Seton and Liancourt will learn more about each other and share their Catholic faith together through prayer, visits and helping each other.

The project arose from a yearlong study of ways in which Seton could reach out to the concerns of the world beyond our nation's borders. This search led to Dr. Rodrigue Mortel, a native of Haiti who is helping to facilitate sister parish relationships between local churches and parishes in Baltimore's sister diocese, the Diocese of Gonaives in Haiti.

In June, Mortel accompanied two Seton parishioners, Susan Carpenter and Howard Chatterton, on a visit to Haiti, where they experienced life in the country. Traveling to six different parishes, they were awed by the rich faith they saw amid the deep poverty.

Carpenter remembers watching a collection procession during one Mass. Parishioners walked to the front of the church and solemnly placed their offerings in a basket. The collection totaled 50 cents, but each coin was given with generosity from a family who needed every cent.

After visiting other countries with large pockets of poverty and after researching the economic problems of Haiti, Chatterton had expected to see a lot of poverty. But, he said, "I did not expect to see it applied to a whole country across the board."

One of his most striking memories was walking up to what appeared to be a stable and discovering that it was actually a school for more than 250 children. The priests Carpenter and Chatterton visited, although they dealt with desperate economic situations, were convinced that only through education could they help their parishioners find their way out of poverty.

The walls of the church may be falling down, there may be next to no money, but they are determined that children in their parishes will learn to read and write and, hopefully, learn skills to help them earn a living.

Carpenter and Chatterton returned to Crofton full of stories and on fire with the desire to share what they had learned with Seton. After discussing their reports, the Pastoral Council decided to adopt the Haitian parish of 35,000 Catholics in the Artibonite Valley, whose pastor is the Rev. Alexis Robinson.

Last weekend, Mortel visited Seton, speaking at every Mass about life in Haiti and introducing Seton to its new sister parish. Chatterton and Carpenter also shared pictures and stories of their visit and explored with parishioners' ideas for developing the relationship between the two parishes.

Chatterton said that one of his goals for the year is to help "create opportunities for people in Crofton to become personally involved in assisting the parish in Haiti." He said this could be done through prayer, by helping to sponsor a child's tuition or by helping buy food for the school, among other needs.

Carpenter recalls that when she first returned to Crofton, she couldn't eat a meal or take a shower without remembering the hunger she saw in Haiti and the problems caused by the lack of water clean enough to drink or shower in.

She will never forget the need she saw in Haiti, the generosity of the people in the face of destitution and her passion to share with her parish in Crofton the story of their fellow Catholics in another country.

New school opens

School of the Incarnation in Gambrills will mark its opening with an event-filled dedication weekend. Church leaders, government officials, local pastors, school families, campaign donors and members of the community will gather to celebrate the completion of first new Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 39 years.

Cardinal William H. Keeler will officiate at the dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday. Church of the Holy Apostles, whose offices and worship area are located in the school building, will hold an open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Classes began at the new facility last month. Church of the Holy Apostles' congregation gathers for Mass Sunday mornings in the school's multipurpose room.

Information: 410-519-2285.

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