Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homily for 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jan. 31, 2010
Jer 1: 4-5, 17-19
St. Vincent’s Hosp., Harrison

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you” (Jer 1: 5).

At the beginning of the book of his prophecies, Jeremiah tells us who he is and how he came to be a prophet. God called him, appointed him, dedicated him not only from the moment when he was conceived in his mother’s womb but even earlier than that—which means that God created him with this purpose in mind: that he should be a prophet, that he should proclaim God’s message to Israel and “to the nations” (1:5).

Jeremiah’s vocation, his calling from God, is unique insofar as not many people are called to be prophets and he alone was called at that particular time and place—Jerusalem late in the 7th century B.C.—to deliver the particular messages that God gave him.

What’s not unique to Jeremiah is that God knew him from eternity, from before his conception, and had a plan for him, a purpose for him, by which he would serve and glorify God. In the “old days” when the sisters and I were growing up (I don’t see anyone else here pushing 60), we learned our catechism by rote from a book called the Baltimore Catechism. One of the 1st questions in it asked why God made us, and the answer was, “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next world.”

So, while the particulars are unique to Jeremiah, the general truth applies to everyone: God has an ultimate purpose for all of us: his glory and our happiness—and for the fulfillment of that purpose he knew and called every one of us long before he created us, and he’s designed some particular plan for each of us so that we will know, love, serve, and glorify him and we will be happy here and hereafter.

When we don’t pay attention to God’s call, God’s plan, then we’re not going to be happy. Ignoring or just not trying to discern God’s plan for us isn’t necessarily sinful; but we’ll be frustrated for sure because we’re not doing what he means us to do, not being the person he created us to be. Imagine trying to play basketball with a football. It wouldn’t be possible, would it? You could try, but you sure wouldn’t be able to dribble, you’d have to pass in a completely different way, and if you could manage to get the ball into the net, it’d probably get stuck. Now, imagine that someone shows up with a basketball, and he says, “Hey, guys! Want to play with this instead?” And you answer, “No, no, we’re good.” Time for a reality check? Time for Billy Crystal to exclaim, “Hel-looooo?” If our life game isn’t going so well, could it be because we’re playing it wrong?

We don’t know how God let Jeremiah know that he was to be a prophet. In another place, Jeremiah describes how he tried to avoid prophesying—no one likes being opposed and persecuted for living by and preaching the word of God (20:7-8,10)—and even in today’s reading we have a hint of that in Jeremiah’s case: “I have made you a fortified city…against the whole land, against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. [Doesn’t seem to be anyone left out.] Be not crushed on their account. They will fight against you but not prevail over you” (1:17-19). When he tried to dodge his vocation, Jeremiah says, God’s word burned like fire inside him and he couldn’t contain it; he had to speak what God gave him to speak (20:9).

So how do we know what’s God’s purpose for us? A few people clearly hear God’s voice deep inside them, telling them: This is what I want you to do. This is who I want you to be. Most people don’t. But most of us know what makes us happy, what fulfills us, what gives us a sense of contentment—not momentary, like Thanksgiving dinner, but lasting day after day, month after month. That’s your 1st clue about what God’s calling you to.

You get your 2d clue in prayer and reflection and silence. Maybe a lot of modern folks don’t have a clue about God’s will because they’ve never been silent for 5 straight minutes. You’ll never find out who God is or even who you are with 24/7 TV, radio, Internet, video games, chat rooms, texts and tweets. All of that actually hides us from ourselves. Yes, you can discover the world around you by reading newspapers and magazines and watching TV and Net surfing. How would we know about Haiti and all the other suffering in the world without those things? BUT—we have to stop to reflect about the world and the people in our lives and ask ourselves about our place in that world and in those relationships, about our own sins and brokenness; and then turn to God, to seek guidance, to throw our thoughts at him and see what kind of response we get. The response doesn’t come from a bolt of lightning or a big bass voice from above the ceiling or out of the clouds, but from quiet inspiration, from some kind of sense that “this is me”: You know, this man, this woman is really the one I want to spend my life with and have a family with. You know, no man, no woman can satisfy my deepest yearnings for love, for eternity; God wants something else of me, a life of consecration. You know, I have a need to share God’s love in service to others, and this way (fill in the blank) seems right to me.

You get your 3d clue from human feedback. You tell someone you trust—a priest, a sister, a parent, a best friend—about your thoughts, your inclinations, your desires. That someone verifies your thoughts, gives you advice, gives you more to think about, challenges you, helps you work your way to a decision about your life, a decision that you reach together with God because you decide: this is what he formed me for, this is what he dedicated me to from before I was born, from before I came to be in my mother’s womb.

No matter what God calls you to, you will have occasional doubts, challenges, difficulties, arguments, fights. You can ask the sisters. You can ask anyone who’s been married for 40 or 50 years. You can ask a priest. “They will fight against you,” the Lord says to Jeremiah, but “be not crushed on their account” (1:19,17). Everyone has problems in life. Even with all the good will in the world, people will disagree. But if you’re where God wants you to be, if you’re truly trying to live God’s will for you, “they will not prevail over you, as tho God should leave you crushed before them” (ibid.). No, God will be “with you to deliver you” (1:19). That doesn’t mean you’ll win the human arguments and battles all the time; no one does. It means that you’ll always be with God, and God will stand by you and encourage you—and you’ll be happy with that, here and hereafter.

Message of the Rector Major to Young People

Message of the Rector Major to Young People
Each year on the feast of St. John Bosco, the Rector Major writes a letter to the youngsters of the Salesian World (the Salesian Youth Movement).
Haiti Update, Jan. 29-30

Fr. Mark Hyde was in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 29-30. On the 30th the new superior of the Haitian Vice Province, Fr. Ducange Sylvain, was installed by Fr. Esteban Ortiz, regional councilor.

Fr. Mark forwarded reports through Mr. Correa from either Santo Domingo or Port-au-Prince (which, not known here in the N.R. provincial house):

Fr. Vaclav Klement, SDB, general councilor for the missions, has confirmed via e-mail that, per instructions of the Rector Major, funds raised for the Haitian Emergency Relief and Reconstruction Program by Salesian mission procures and NGOs worldwide should be wired to New Rochelle.

A convoy of trucks with additional food assistance will leave next Monday from La Vega, D.R., bound for Pétion-Ville and Carrefour-Thorland in Haiti. A second convoy with food assistance and water is scheduled to leave next week also. The cost of each truckload of food assistance is quoted at $11,664 and with water alone at $6,189 (including fuel and truck rental).
The water purification equipment donation arranged through Jugend Dritte Welt (Bonn) will be picked up from the World Food Program warehouse in Port-au-Prince tomorrow morning.

The Italian Salesian NGO International Volunteers for Development (VIS) has offered to airlift an initial 100 tents good for 10 persons each around next Monday, Feb. 1. VIS may be able to secure an additional 400 tents later in the week. Likewise, Salesian Missions is making arrangements to airlift over 1,500 tents for 6 persons each from China next week for delivery to the SDBs of Haiti via the SDBs of the Antilles.

VIS's desk officer for Emergencies, Ricardo Giannotta, and VIS’s deputy director, Nico Lotta, are scheduled to arrive in S.D. this weekend to carry out an on-the-ground assessment of the extent of the damage, to develop a list of priorities based on needs, and to get enough information to develop a project proposal for donor funding addressing (a) emergency relief, (b) rehabilitation of educational infrastructure including temporary shelters and classrooms, and (c) reconstruction of the Salesian educational infrastructure. This is an extraordinary opportunity for a Salesian Missions team to work and join forces with VIS’s colleagues in assessing the noted needs and establish priorities for project funding and an even greater on-the-ground opportunity to coordinate who is going to do what and be agreed upon and embraced by the Salesian leadership in Haiti at the same time.

On Jan. 30 the joint VIS-Salesian Missions Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Team (RRT) was on its way to Haiti through Santo Domingo. The RRT’s mission is to (a) assess earthquake-inflicted damages and (b) develop a list of needs and priorities that can be used to seek funding from external donors through development of discrete project proposals. The 2-person VIS team arrived on the night of the 30th, while one of the two team members from Salesian Missions was due on the afternoon of the 31st.

Thus does Fr. Mark celebrate the solemnity of St. John Bosco (Jan. 31).

Meanwhile, on the 29th a Catholic News Service team of reporter Dennis Sadowski and photographer Bob Roller arrived in Port-au-Prince and set immediately to work with short blogs. See
Haiti Update, Jan. 28-29

More Links
On Friday, Jan. 29, CNS has a major article on the FMAs in Port-au-Prince:

CNS’s Jim Lackey posted on Jan. 28 a slide show put together by Sam Lucero of The Compass, diocesan paper from Green Bay, with a voice-over from an interview given to CNS by Abp. Tim Dolan of NY, a day or two after the earthquake. There’s a link to a 2d slide show. Mr. Lackey concludes: “… they are stark reminders of the terrible devastation in Haiti and the major role Catholic Relief Services is playing there.”

The USCCB, like the Salesians, realize that Haiti relief has to include the future and not only the immediate crisis. See “Bishops Call for a Longterm Strategy in Haiti That Focuses on Poverty Reduction”:

Shoestring, the public relations and media firm used by Salesian Missions, has gotten SM mentions or listings in many places. “How you can help earthquake victims” listings include (but aren’t limited to):
CNN’s Impact Your World

Catholic News Service has a team arriving in Santo Domingo on Friday, Jan. 29, heading for Port-au-Prince. They hope to see the Salesian places there, among so many stories they want to cover.

Relief Efforts
Fr. Mark is making another visit to Port-au-Prince on Friday, Jan. 29.
As of Jan. 26, the Salesians in Haiti are providing shelter to about 13,500 Haitians left homeless from the earthquake (approximately 6,500 in Carrefour-Thorland and 7,000 in Pétion-Ville). This doesn’t count what the FMAs are doing at their schools. Survivors are finding shelter in the limited number of facilities which remain standing, in makeshift tents, or in one of the more than 800 tents have been distributed by the Salesians. Currently, staff at the Salesian Missions headquarters in New Rochelle is working to secure an additional 2,000 six-man tents for distribution to the homeless.

In a true show and spirit of cooperation and solidarity, the Salesians in Germany and Austria are sending two 40-foot containers with 1,600 “schools in a box” kits, enough for 72,000 students. This is in preparation for makeshift schools (when deemed appropriate). Prior to the earthquake, Salesian Missions (N.R.) funded schools to these children. Every effort is being made to re-establish this as soon as possible, as well as attend to the more urgent, life-saving needs.

On Jan. 27 the Sandals Foundation has pledged $35,000 to Salesian Missions for its Haiti Relief Efforts (details to come).

After consultation with the SDBs of Haiti, the Emergency Response Team expects to carry out an assessment and identification of needs in the areas of water and sanitation infrastructure that can be turned into “shelf projects” for financing.

Fr. Joseph Simon, SDB, is receiving direct assistance in the form of a 40-kw generator for the street children program in Pétion-Ville.

Transition from emergency relief to reconstruction is expected to begin shortly after the flow of food assistance begins to normalize, which in turn is expected to happen a week or so after 40-foot containers of food assistance and other needed relief emergency items donated by Cross International begin to arrive in Santo Domingo for repacking and transport to Port-au-Prince. In the meantime, a continued food assistance bridge is in full swing with foodstuffs being purchased in the Dominican Republic.
Associazione Missioni Don Bosco from Turin has offered to defray the cost of buying and delivering some 2,000 urgently needed tents for Port-au-Prince. Salesian Missions (N.R.) is trying to find them; it’s a large number to find in stock.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Haiti Updates for January 26-27

In the Press

Why is it essential to rebuild the Salesian works in Haiti? Read from the AP(1/27/10), “Haiti: Smallest survivors pose one of biggest problems”:

A similar story from the NYT, 1/27/10: “Haiti’s Children Adrift in World of Chaos”

Fr. Tom Reese, SJ, doesn’t mention the Salesians in this piece in the Washington Post (1/25/10), but he makes a point that we could pick up on:
“Rebuilding Haiti church infrastructure to take years, says U.S. bishop”

From Rome ANS reports (1/27/10) that 2 Italian sports heroes, Danilo Gallinari, the best Italian basketball player in the National Basketball Association, and Rino Gattuso, a veteran soccer star, have agreed to serve as spokesmen for the International Volunteers for Development (VIS: in a national appeal for support for the reconstruction of the Salesian works in Haiti. Similar appeals are being made by other members of the Don Bosco Network of NGOs. The appeals aim not only at urgent immediate relief but also at “rebuilding the hopes and the lives of Haiti,” especially by offering education through Salesian schools and youth centers.

Updated at

The different missions for Haiti have been updated in the FYM website. The links:

Haiti Donations Immediately Tax-Deductible

It’s now law. Haiti donations made from 1/12/10 to 2/28/10 may be deducted from 2009 taxes and counted as 12/31/09 donations. Here’s more from CNS:
New law allows US taxpayers to take 2009 deduction for Haiti relief
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Under a new U.S. tax law, people who have donated to charities providing relief to Haitians since the Jan. 12 earthquake can take a tax deduction for the contribution on their 2009 tax return instead of their 2010 return. The measure was passed unanimously by the house Jan. 20 and by the Senate Jan. 21. President Obama signed the bill into law Jan. 22. “This measure provides an immediate benefit for those who have already given and incentive for those who are considering a charitable contribution. We must do everything we can to help the people of Haiti and the aid workers working so feverishly on the ground to help them,” said a Jan. 22 statement released by house Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. In 2004 Congress passed similar legislation for contributions to aid agencies helping the victims of the tsunami in Indonesia. An IRS announcement about the new law has been posted on the Web site

Fr. Mark Hyde Reports from the Dominican Republic

A five-truck convoy arrived on Jan. 26 in Port-au-Prince from La Vega for distribution in Pétion-Ville and Carrefour-Thorland. Commodities included food stuffs (2 trucks), potable water (2 trucks), and medications and clothing (1). All relief items were purchased in the Dominican Republic.

The 300,000 chlorine tablets reported on earlier were delivered in Port-au-Prince on the evening of Jan. 25.

The drinking water unit – AquaCube – (acquired through BEGECA) arrived in Santo Domingo and is being trucked to Port-au-Prince with logistical support and transport provided by the UN. Fr. Jacques Charles, outgoing Haitian SDB provincial, will pick up the drinking water plant from a warehouse contiguous to the German embassy in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 27.

BEGECA’s representative in Santo Domingo, Gunter Timmermanns, will be working out of the SDB Antilles provincial house and is coordinating the SDBs’ UN-led logistical support.

Fr. Stra has been released from the hospital and is recovering and resting well at the SDB Antilles provincial house.

Hendrix Pineda from Salesian Missions New Rochelle has arrived in Santo Domingo to (a) provide communications support to Fr. Mark and (b) set up financial accountability systems and records for reporting to donors and benefactors who are contributing to the Haitian Emergency Relief and Reconstruction Program efforts.

The new SDB Haitian provincial, Fr. Ducange Sylvain, will be installed on Saturday, Jan. 30, in Port-au-Prince. Planning to attend are Fr. Esteban Ortiz, general councilor for the InterAmerica Region; Fr. Victor Pichardo, Antilles provincial; Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle; and many confreres from the Antilles Province as well as members of the Salesian Family attending the CIEC (Conference of InterAmerica Catholic School Educators) meetings in Santo Domingo at this time.

Gianluca Antonelli reports that VIS has met with Civil Defense experts from the Italian government (Guido Bertolaso and Agostino Miozzo) who, together with Italy’s ambassador to the D.R., visited ENAM. Mr. Antonelli reports also that an Italian Navy ship will dock in Haiti on Feb. 2. The ship is equipped with a hospital and also has a contingent of 200 military experts on infrastructure and buildings with equipment of various kinds. The Navy is reported to be offering the Salesians in Haiti availability for: (a) removing debris from Salesian properties, (b) checking to verify the safety and usefulness of the Salesian infrastructure, (c) securing damaged buildings, and (d) assisting with displaced populations staying on Salesian property.

Jugend Eine Welt (Austrian Salesian NGO) in partnership with CARITAS Austria is seeking funds from the EU for a 6-month project aimed at providing emergency support for 20,000 youths associated with the “mini schools” at Cité Soleil and La Saline.

From the Netherlands: Parents and children of a European School in Bergen (13 miles north of Amsterdam), are raising funds to help the SDBs of Haiti rebuild some of the mini schools. School and students are said to be aiming at raising around 8,000 euros. They are also (a) collecting French and English books to send to Haiti’s SDBs and (b) putting together “shoeboxes” filled with school supplies and small toys for the children.

The SDBs of Haiti have requested 2,000 tents with capacity of 6 people each. Salesian Missions is making arrangements to procure and meet this urgent need. Likewise, if any of the other Salesian procures or NGOs have access and can airlift those to Santo Domingo, please contact Fr. Mark at with copy to Jaime Correa at

One forklift to offload pallets of food and emergency relief items from containers at the Jimani, D.R., repacking center is being purchased in Santo Domingo.

Developing countries, communications, earthquakes -- a Salesian contribution

From Rome Fr. Julian Fox reports (austraLasia #2584, 1/28/10):
In Haiti, there is yet another twist to the disaster which unfolded on January 12. Under the rubble of the archbishop’s quarters (he died amid that rubble) lie the archdiocesan communications structures, all now destroyed: Radio and Télé Soleil.

The station manager for Radio Soleil is Hubert Mesidor, a young Salesian brother (wrongly reported in some media as a Salesian priest). As mentioned in the East Asia-Oceania blog on 1/16/10 (, I was with Hubert some months ago in Quito and jokingly called him a “delinquent” when, after my mentioning that through use of free software I had saved the Congregation thousands, he shot back immediately that so had he -- with another kind of “free” software!! Now he is welcome to any kind of software he can lay his hands on, as far as I am concerned. I am just grateful that he is alive. Radio Soleil has played a crucial role in Haiti, as witnessed by the fact that the Duvalier dictators closed it down several times. “Baby Doc” went, in due course, while Radio Soleil survived.

Will Radio Soleil rise from the rubble? Certainly. It is estimated that some dozen crucial local radio stations were destroyed in the earthquake, but they have played and will need to be reconstructed to continue to play, a supportive role for Haiti’s suffering people. And quite possibly Salesian communications enterprises around the world are among those who will help come to the rescue? That’s a question, not a statement. Audiovisuales Don Bosco, Quito, had already played a role in conjunction with Radio and Télé Soleil prior to the earthquake in raising awareness in Haiti; possibly they are looking at what they can do now.

A prominent Salesian friend also died in the earthquake. Zilda Arns, founder of Pastoral da Criança in Brazil and champion of children’s rights, was on a brief mission in Haiti at the time of the earthquake and did not survive, as has been widely reported. She was the opening speaker at the Chiang Mai SIGNIS Conference last year. Her loss will be sorely felt worldwide.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SLM in the Amazon

SLM in the Amazon

Back on August 14, I posted about the new batch of Salesian Lay Missioners that we commissioned. If you want to follow the adventures of Steve Widelski deep in the Amazon, read his blog at

Monday, January 25, 2010

Collaboration, Contributions, Status of Salesian Sisters

Collaboration, Contributions, Status of Salesian Sisters, Haitians in the U.S., Links to More Info


Hans-Jürgen Dörrich from Jugend Dritte Welt (JDW) in Bonn left New Rochelle on Sunday evening, returning to Bonn on Monday morning, Jan. 25. The staff of Salesian Missions and the province leadership in N.R. are most grateful for his presence and assistance in the first 12 days of dealing with the Haiti emergency.

Salesian Missions (N.R.) has drafted Haiti Emergency Relief Accountability Guidelines and on Jan. 17 circulated them for feedback from other Salesian procures and NGOs. That feedback is awaited so that the guidelines can be finalized.

Salesian procures and NGOs are requested to provide their e-mail addresses to Shoestring Group’s Hanna Brazee Gregory ( directly for timely transmission of information from the Shoestring Group regarding Haiti.

Sisters Ready to Help in Miami’s Operation Pierre Pan

The Salesian Sisters (FMAs) helped exiled Cuban children in the 1960s, and they’re ready to work with the archdiocese of Miami to help Haitian children orphaned by the earthquake.

Sr. Phyllis Neves, provincial of FMA Eastern Province, explained that if the Sisters’ application is approved, they will be involved in the archdiocese’s Operation Pierre Pan, an effort coordinated by Catholic Charities and modeled after the 1960s-era program Operación Pedro Pan, in which 14,048 Cuban children who arrived to the U.S. without their parents were housed with families in Florida after Cuba’s communist revolution. Just like that two-year program, the Haitian children would live in temporary shelters in south Florida until foster homes are found, or they are reunited with family members.

Miami is home to approximately 300,000 Haitian-Americans; they are probably the biggest immigrant community in the city after the Cuban population.

Sr. Phyllis stressed that the project is still in a preliminary stage. The principal of Miami’s Immaculata-LaSalle High School, Sr. Pat Roche, “is in dialog with Catholic Charities and has offered the youth center at LaSalle as a possible site for the children. Personnel in the province have been identified who could coordinate this program and provide the necessary care. At this point, we know nothing specific, as the important step is to identify the children who really are orphaned. If we are accepted, we’d receive a group.” She added that Sr. Marie Adline Clergé, former provincial of Haiti, who is currently in the U.S. to study English, and two novices who know Creole, are willing to help in this effort, as well as other sisters and volunteers from the FMAs’ VIDES program.

In addition to the community in Miami, Sr. Phyllis added that Mary Help of Christians School in North Haledon, N.J., which once was a boarding school, could re-open its dormitory and create a home environment. She spoke with Sr. Kim Keraitis, principal of the school, who explained they could also offer the middle-school or high school children an education and a safe environment.

“At this time,” Sr. Phyllis said, “we are waiting to hear from the diocese.”

The Salesian Sisters at Jacmel

Following an aftershock centered on Jacmel, Haiti, on Jan. 18 that measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, it seemed to the Antilles FMAs urgent to go to Jacmel in person. It’s impossible to communicate by phone. So Sr. Elizabeth Corsino, animator of the Barahona, D.R., community, visited Jacmel last week.

Sr. Elizabeth writes to the FMAs of the world: “I have just returned from Jacmel, where we have a community of seven sisters, three of whom are temporary professed. Because it was impossible to get there overland – the earthquake has cut the city off by road – I managed to get there by sea.”

“On Wednesday afternoon, the 20th,” she continues, “I went to Pedernales, the city closest to the port of Cabo Rojo, whence the Dominican Navy’s ships were leaving for Jacmel; first I made a contact, hoping to be able to sail on Thursday morning. I stayed with the Mercederian Sisters of Charity, with whom we have a good relationship because of our belonging to the same diocese.

“Thursday was the feast of Our Lady of Altagrazia, a very important feast for the Haitian people. Together with a group of North American doctors, volunteers from diverse NGOs who work in the area, I was able to leave on the 21st at 11:30 a.m. Dominican time. We arrived at Jacmel at 4:00 p.m. Haiti time. Msgr. Jean-Theodule Domond, apostolic administrator, who lives near our sisters and had been in contact with our pastor about the time of my arrival, was at the port to meet me. The sisters were not expecting me, and so you can imagine their surprise when they saw me arrive accompanied by their ‘acting bishop’! In addition to greeting all, I brought the sisters Mother Yvonne’s letter of Jan. 16 and some photocopied messages and articles that had been published on our web site.

“The FMAs are well. Luckily, the physical structure of the sisters’ house, like the school, did not suffer damage, notwithstanding the quakes. That night while I was sleeping there was a strong aftershock that awakened and frightened us all. Even though the house seems to be in good condition, the sisters sleep outside in tents for safety. I had the experience of doing the same, and of experiencing the anguish of that strong movement and the terrifying noise that the shocks produce. A group of doctors from the United States who work in the hospitals during the day as volunteers return to the sisters’ courtyard at night to rest. Some families also are with them in the yard during the night.

“They have water, but drinking water must come from Santo Domingo. From the 21st they have had electricity, but the hours of service are minimum. Fuel can still be found in the city. Things are not as contaminated as in Port-au-Prince, nor is the stench as bad. Even though there are many destroyed buildings, some are still standing; but these cannot be used for safety reasons. There are no bodies on the streets, but they are still digging in the rubble, especially under the university, which collapsed, where many students who worked by day were taking to evening/night classes.

“I brought what I thought would be necessary, but by going personally I was able to see exactly what they needed, for example, specific medicines.

“I was able to visit the sisters of other congregations, at the request of the sisters who are close to our own. They were very kind to me and made their needs known so that I could be their spokesman.”

Sr. Elizabeth was gone for three days, traveling many hours by ship. Her account concludes: “Our sisters are very grateful to Mother Yvonne and all the sisters of the world. When they read Mother’s letter in French, they were moved and happy, and I told myself that it was worth the trouble of taking that trip. They could not believe that I had come by ship, but they understood that all the FMAs were there with me, close to them. Their joy was indeed great.”

More Aid for Port-au-Prince

300,000 chorine tablets (“Chlor tabletts”) provided by the International Water Aid Organization through JDW (photo of their arrival in S.D. posted in Jan. 23-24 update, below.), as well as medications donated by Salesian parishes in the Dominican Republic, all for delivery to Port-au-Prince, have been held up at the provincial house awaiting papers and clearance for entry into Haiti.

A second convoy of trucks with food and emergency relief items, including rice, beans, water, and dry fish, all procured in the Dominican Republic will leave La Vega bound for Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 2:00 a.m. Their destinations are Carrefour-Thorland and Pétion-Ville. Pictures will be taken at point of departure and at distribution points in Port-au-Prince. Additional trucks of food will be delivered to Port-au-Prince later this week from S.D.

This type of emergency and humanitarian relief effort will continue as necessary until containers from Cross International begin to arrive in Barahona, making more regular and sustained delivery possible.

Sandals Foundation and Sandals Resorts may be able to defray the cost of “school in a box” kits for Salesian students in Haiti. Thus far Sandals Foundation has raised $100,000 in cash for Haiti’s relief program. Haitian SDBs also have to advise on number of students that will need them when “normalcy” sets in.

BEGECA’s representative in S.D. is in contact with the Emergency Relief Team in S.D. with likely opportunities of enhanced logistics coordination with UN-led Logistics’ Cluster.

Water purification equipment offers arranged by VIS and JDW were accepted, and transportation arrangements are being worked out for delivery to S.D. for ultimate delivery to Port-au-Prince.

The Madrid Procure has donated 300,000 euros to the Emergency Relief and Reconstruction Fund.

Haitians in the U.S.

The last U.S. Census Bureau data (2008) indicate that there are 546,000 Haitian immigrants in the United States. 48% are naturalized U.S. citizens; this compares to 43% for the overall foreign-born population. Another 310,000 U.S.-born Americans have at least one parent born in Haiti.

The top states of Haitian immigrant (foreign-born) settlement are Florida (251,963; 46% of the total), New York (135,836; 25%) New Jersey (43,316; 8%), Massachusetts (36,779; 7%), Georgia (13,287; 2%), and Maryland (11,266; 2%). These immigrants have been a main source of income for their relatives back in Haiti, and their involvement will be vital to the country’s recovery.

Analysis of public documents by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that 22% of Haitian immigrants ages 25-65 have not graduated from high school, and 18% have a college degree. This compares to 9 percent and 30 percent, respectively, for native-born Americans.

The share of Haitian immigrants and their children under age 18 living in poverty is 20%. For native-born Americans and their children it is 11.6%.

49% of Haitian immigrants own their own home; for native-born Americans the figure is 69%.

Links to Download Related Media & Information
(Property of Salesian Missions)

Photos of the devastation

Photos of ENAM-LAKAY and works in Haiti “before” (taken Feb. 2009)

Video footage of ENAM-LAKAY and works in Haiti “before” (taken Feb. 2009)

Additional information, maps, etc.

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Salesian Missions iReporter page on

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bro. John Cauda, SDB (1922-2010)

Bro. John Cauda, SDB (1922-2010)
Bro. John Cauda died on Jan. 21, 2010, at Nyack (N.Y.) Hospital after a short illness. He was 87.

Bro. John was born at Montá d’Alba, Italy, on July 27, 1922, to Agostino and Anna Calorio Cauda. He was baptized three days later in the parish church of St. Anthony the Abbot.

Bro. John studied at the Salesians’ well known trades and professional school in Turin, Conte Rebaudengo, which he entered in 1935. From there he was admitted to the novitiate at Villa Moglia, Chieri, in 1939 and made his first religious profession there on Aug. 16, 1940.

After two years of additional training, he was assigned to the huge Bernardi Semeria technical school at Colle Don Bosco, near Castelnuovo, to teach cabinetmaking. He was a master craftsman and a dedicated instructor. He taught there for four years.

In 1946 Bro. John was among a cadre of brothers recruited to come to the U.S. when the New Rochelle Province needed skilled craftsmen for its technical schools. He was first assigned to Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., to learn English and teach his craft to young brothers and aspirants to the brotherhood.

In 1948 he was one of the founders of Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson, N.J., where he taught until 1961, as well as in three more postings, 1965-1969, 1971-1981, and 1997-2002. He guided not only the high school students in the cabinetmaking shop—who included aspirants to the brotherhood in the 1948-1961 period—but also young Salesian brothers who were learning the craft.

When the brotherhood aspirants and young brothers moved to Don Bosco Juniorate in Haverstraw, N.Y., in 1961, Bro. John moved with them and taught there for four years. He returned the Haverstraw in 1969-1971, after the aspirantate had closed, as part of the staff of the Marian Shrine.

In additional to wood work that still needed to be done, Bro. John was blessed with a green thumb and did a lot of gardening, maintaining beautiful shrubs and flower beds to please visitors to the Shrine and flowers to adorn the chapels and outdoor altar.

He was also on the Shrine staff from 1983 to 1997, serving as the administrator of Blue Gate, the Salesian nursing care facility on the Stony Point part of the property, from 1983 to 1988. It was during this 16-year period that one of his directors came up with a great many projects for him to do. One morning this superior announced at breakfast, “Bro. John, I had a dream about you last night,” meaning that another project was about to come. With his dry wit, Bro. John responded, “Your dreams are my nightmares!”

Bro. John retired to the Marian Shrine in 2002 after Don Bosco Tech closed. Late last year he moved into Northern Riverview Nursing Home in Haverstraw; he remained a member of the Marian Shrine Salesian community.

Bro. John also had a two-year assignment at the provincial house in New Rochelle, N.Y. (1981-1983).

Bro. Bruno Busatto, SDB, who knew Bro. John for 60 years, states that Bro. John “was very generous with his time and never refused a favor, especially where work was concerned.”

Fr. Steven Dumais, Bro. John’s superior for seven years at the Marian Shrine, writes: “Bro. John took to heart Don Bosco’s promise to those who faithfully followed Christ in the Salesian Society: they would have bread, work, and paradise! Bro. John certainly exemplified the sanctity of the work ethic, and so we believe he is now enjoying his place in the Salesian garden in paradise.”

Former Salesian Charles Vaughn wrote to say simply, “What a wonderful man and brother he was.”

“He will certainly be missed by all who knew him,” lamented Salesian Cooperator Judy Kallmyer. “I always looked forward to seeing him when I would go to the Shrine.”

Many of his confreres and friends remember Bro. John as a very unassuming man who never wanted the spotlight. In this he was like many of the coadjutor brothers of his generation. Fr. Anthony Mastroeni, a diocesan priest who grew up in a Salesian parish, writes: “I remember him fondly from his days here in Paterson and also at Camp Savio. The coadjutors were the backbone of the Congregation: not seen often, but without them the body could not stand or walk.”

Bro. John’s funeral rites were celebrated at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw on Friday nite and Saturday morning, Jan. 22-23, and he was buried in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y.

Coming Together for Haiti.

Coming Together for Haiti. Update Jan. 23-24.
International Assistance

News reports for several days have told of refugees leaving Port-au-Prince for other parts of the country. Many, they say, have headed to Les Cayes, miles to the west of the capital on the southern coast. There is a Salesian school and a youth center there with three confreres. An influx of refugees is likely to have an impact on that presence.

ANS noted on January 23 that initiatives in Salesian centers around the world continue to multiply, as they respond to the Rector Major’s urgent appeal for Haiti. They are making pupils, young people, and their families aware of and getting them involved in the emergency situation created by the earthquake in Haiti.

As Fr. Chavez noted in his appeal letter, even provinces from the Third World are responding. From the East Asia-Oceania Region of the Congregation come these instances: Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands, Vietnam, and Indonesia-Timor. In the Australia-Pacific Province (not in the Third World, at least not most of it), the provincial council decided on a monetary target, an amount it has pledged as a minimum, but asked the houses to send in what they can toward that target. If those amounts don’t reach the overall target, the province will top it up. If the amounts reach the target or exceed it, the province will add to it anyway! Fr. Frank Moloney, the provincial, has written to his confreres indicating that this item must feature in the communities’ Lenten penance.

Individual Salesian Losses

Some of our Haitian confreres have written letters to Salesian friends about their distressed situation, sometimes in struggling English but all the more heartfelt for that. Here’s one sample, written to the other side of the world:

In my family my little brother slept under his office where he is working, thanks God he is alive with some pein, and we hope that everything will be fine soon; in my school some of my pupils are dead..., it’s a terrific moment for us. Now we are just strugguling to live day after day. Please i beg you all to keep us in your prayer because we do need that more than ever. Now in our country most of the catholic Churches in the capital are destroyed and our archibishop and his general vicar are dead in the capital, a lot of religious are dead.... In the capital maybe we still at the most 3 or 4 churches. A lot of students passed away because it was a time for the Universities to work.... it’s terrific. Please help us by your prayer to the good Lord. Take care and God bless.
Haitian-American confreres Bro. Wilgintz Polynice and Bro. Dieunel Victor, both in the formation community of Orange, N.J., have lost relatives in Port-au-Prince. Bro. Wilgintz lost two, and Bro. Dieunel one; while they regret this, of course, both are grateful that there weren’t many more deaths in their large extended families. The families had extensive property damage as well.

The Salesian archbishop of Cap-Haitien, Abp. Louis Kebreau, lost his sister in the earthquake. She belonged to the Daughters of Mary. Fifteen other consecrated sisters died also.
One neighborhood in Port-au-Prince from which children come to Salesian school and youth center.

Fr. Mark Hyde in Port-au-Prince

Fr. Mark reports that communications continue to be a challenge: language barriers, mobility of coordinators required for field coordination, etc. Three more satellite phones are needed for Fr. Zucchi Olibrice, Fr. Ducange Sylvain, and the FMA treasurer in Haiti. Salesian Missions will act upon this need.

On Monday afternoon Hendrix Pinedo from the Salesian Missions Office will fly to Santo Domingo to provide communication support and the advice on financial management and reporting requirements. He and Fr. Mark will remain on Hispaniola—in either the D.R. or Haiti—until Friday afternoon.

Film maker and photographer Martin Diggs accompanied Fr. Mark to Port-au-Prince on Friday and has provided many graphic photos of the destruction and the refugee camps. Since he also went there with Fr. Mark last February, he also has some “before” pictures to share.

Mr. Diggs’s photos belong to the Salesians and are available at:

The January 22 coordination meeting took place in Port-au-Prince. Present were Fr. Mark Hyde, SDB, Fr. Ducange Sylvain, SDB, Fr. Jacques Charles, SDB, Bro. Alberto Figueroa, SDB, Mr. Franklin Ortega, Sr. Marie-Claire Jean, FMA, and Sr. Carmen Figueroa, FMA. They made decisions on the following issues:

1. Jóvenes y Desarrollo (Spain) is entrusted to support the coordination of the emergency relief in general; VIS (Italy) will be requested to support relief efforts with specific types of assistance such as psycho-social support, engineers, etc.

2. The coordination office will not be exclusively an “Emergency Relief Office.” It will also support the Haiti Vice Province’s Project Development Office or serve later as such office (also known as the Rinaldi Foundation or Don Bosco Foundation).
3. Beginning January 26, a daily simultaneous coordination teleconference will be held among New Rochelle, Santo Domingo, and Port-au-Prince at 9:00 a.m. EST.

4. Plans are in motion to establish a separate coordination office in the provincial house in Santo Domingo, 24/7 Internet access, copy machines, fax machines, direct phone line, office supplies, etc.

5. Logistics: Antilles SDBs are in the process of leasing space in Jimani (6-month lease initially) and will erect a pre-fabricated structure for repacking relief items into family-sized packages. It will be in operation ASAP.

6. Logistics: Antilles SDBs have available space for 10 containers at the airport in Barahona.

7. Logistics: Two trucks for water transport and two trucks for food transport are being purchased. Antilles SDBs have received a special discount price from Daihatsu Company.

8. Logistics: Two written requests to MIVA have been received from SDBs and FMAs in Haiti for the purchase in Santo Domingo of two 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers, especially made for Haiti’s rough conditions.

9. Offers accepted:
- Jugend Eine Welt (Austria) is to send 500,000 water purification tablets from Austria. What cannot be used by the Salesian emergency team will be donated to other relief agencies.
- 300,000 water tablets from Jugend Dritte Welt (Germany) and the International Water Aid Organization (IWAO) arrived on January 23 in Santo Domingo and will be sent to Port-au-Prince on the 24th.
Fr. Mark (2d from right) helps unload 300,000 water purification tablets for Port-au-Prince, which have arrived in Santo Domingo on Saturday for delivery to PAP on Sunday, donated by the International Water Aid Organization.
- Both water purification systems offered by JDW and VIS are needed. The places will be chosen soon by the Haiti SDBs. JDW is requested to contact BEGECA to ship and install the water system offered ASAP. VIS is requested to contact the Italian organization that offered another water system ASAP as well.

Computers and office equipment are needed for all places. A first set for the coordination office will be purchased in Santo Domingo. Donations of laptops, photo copiers, etc., and other new equipment are welcome.
Fr. Mark with some boys in front of the damaged St. Dominic Savio School at Petion-Ville.

Issues remaining to be addressed ASAP:

1. Where should the Emergency Relief Office be located: at the provincial house in Port-au-Prince or in Pétion-Ville?

2. An inventory of SDB-owned and Government of Haiti-owned properties needs to be drawn up and made available. It is known that land where ENAM is located belongs to the Haitian Government; FMAs’ place next to ENAM belongs to the FMAs; a small part of ENAM (the chapel) belongs to the SDBs. In Cap-Hatien the land belongs to the Government of Haiti; in Pétion-Ville the land belongs to the SDBs. The land of the post novitiate and the provincial house in Port-au-Prince belongs to the SDBs. (Before rebuilding can begin, land ownership must be clear, and if necessary contracts drawn up.)

3. A first prioritization of infrastructure projects needs to be drawn by the Haiti Vice Province and the FMAs and will be communicated soon. Many issues do still require further consultation, however.

4. The director of the Salesian Youth Center in Carrefour-Thorland already has available drawings of a new youth center (designed before the earthquake). Misereor of Germany has offered the technical assistance of an architect and an engineer available in Port-au-Prince by the end of February.
The auditorium of the youth center at Thorland in Feb. 2009, above.
The same building after the quake, right.

5. Interim information officers are Franklin Ortega in the Antilles Province and Fr. Jacques Charles and Fr. Zucchi Olibrice in Haiti.
6. There is a big interest in the system “School in a basket” offered by BEGECA. The local BEGECA representative shall be provided with the data of the SDB office in order to make a choice.

Homily for 3d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
3d Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jan. 24, 2010
Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21
Christian Brothers, Iona College

“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4: 14).

Now that the dust has settled—Advent and Christmastide are over—we get a kind of re-introduction to the year of St. Luke, the featured gospel of this C Cycle of readings. Way before Eusebius, much less Bede, Luke was the 1st Christian historian, the 1st historian of the Church, at least in the sense that any work discernible historical narrative has survived for us, for he does allude to predecessors (1:1). So he’s a patron of ours, Matt and Joe.[1]

Yet, after stating his purpose as to investigate everything accurately and write it down in an orderly sequence (1:3), he seems to violate one of the canons of historiography. He appeals to the invisible, the intangible, to something incapable of documentation: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.”

In doing so, however, Luke is doing something else that historians do: interpreting the evidence, explaining what he has seen and heard, or reliable eyewitnesses have seen and heard, telling his readers what he thinks the observable facts mean. To use a phrase popular these days in a very different context, he’s connecting the dots.

Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (4:18), and Luke will offer evidence for the accuracy of that claim in the words and deeds of Jesus’ public ministry, and most of all in his resurrection and in his continuing presence in the lives of his disciples, in the acts of his apostles. Luke’s summary explanation for all of that is that Jesus spoke and acted “in the power of the Spirit.” His very presence made God present.

Jesus returned to Galilee. His return is from the Jordan Valley, where he was baptized “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove” (3:22), which we celebrated 2 weeks ago; and from the Judean desert, where the Spirit led Jesus after his baptism for a period of prayer and testing, testing that he passed because he was filled by the Spirit of God (4:1-2).

He returned to Galilee, he taught in their synagogs, and he was praised by all (4:15). When he taught, he held their rapt attention (4:20). The Spirit of God so filled him, he was so charismatic that he grabbed everyone’s attention. And he didn’t even need a teleprompter. No doubt the program that he outlined for himself—his mission statement, one commentator calls it[2]—is one to grab our attention: liberty for captives and the oppressed, recovery of sight for the blind, good news for the poor. Note that we’re not told yet that he’s done any of this, hasn’t worked a single miracle (Luke knows nothing of the wedding at Cana that St. John told us about last week).

How could he hold the people’s attention and receive the praise of all when he taught? He had the power of the Spirit. Probably very few Galileans had witnessed the Spirit’s descent upon him in bodily form like a dove, and certainly no one had witnessed his combat with the devil in the desert. But because Jesus was a man who totally submitted to God’s will and totally rejected evil, totally rejected self-seeking, he was powerful. People could tell that he was a man of integrity, a man whose actions backed up his works, a man who lived to serve others—that program he announced—a man who was truly in touch with God, which is what being filled with the Spirit means.

Can people tell that we are filled with the Spirit? When we enter a classroom, a community room, a chapel, do we enter “in the power of the Spirit” and cause people to notice, to pay attention? Most of us probably don’t. And, heaven knows, we all know people who make others pay attention to them, but it’s definitely not the Spirit at work. When historians—or at least whoever writes our formal obituary—looks back at our lives, will they witness words and deeds that can be explained as the power of God at work?

[1] Bros. Harry “Matt” Dunkak, CFC, and Joseph Morgan, CFC, historians.[2] Barbara E. Reid, “God Inside-Out,” America, Jan. 18-25, 2010, p. 37.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fr. Mark Hyde Visits Port-au-Prince, Jan. 22

Fr. Mark Hyde Visits Port-au-Prince, Jan. 22

Fr. Mark Hyde traveled to Port-au-Prince today for a planning meeting with the SDB provincial councils Haiti and the Antilles and the FMAs; a picture of the SDBs is below. Fr. Mark plans to communicate the results tomorrow.
From left: Frs. Juan Linares, Ducange Sylvain, Jacques Charles, Mark Hyde, Victor Pichardo; we think we also have Franklin Orega’s legs and Bro. Alberto Rodriguez’s head. And we’re guessing that Fr. Zucchi Olibrice took the picture.
Fr. Mark visited Fr. Attilio Stra in the hospital in Santo Domingo. A photo of them with Fr. Pichardo and the Haitian brother who has accompanied Fr. Stra is below. (The only coadjutor brother who was in Port-au-Prince besides Bro. Hubert Sanon, who died, is Bro. Hubert Mesidor from the Fleuriot-Tabarre community; so perhaps that is he.)

Gianluca Antonelli, executive director of International Volunteers for Development (VIS), has offered a part of the financial and technical support for an osmosis water purifying system with capacity to filter up to 7,000 liters of salty water per day. The technical support offered also includes a permanent internet connection via satellite by the provider Signis.
VIS has had a photographer, Beatrice Giorgi, in Port-au-Prince for several days. Several of her photos have already appeared through ANS (the Salesians news agency at HQ in Rome). There are shots of the refugee camp set up at the Salesian school of Carrefour-Thorland; boys with report cards; Fr. Lephene Pierre, including one where he is “dissuading street kids from looting the school” (probably a bit of an exaggeration when you see all the photos); and removing rubble by hand.

Don Bosco Prep of Ramsey, N.J. has engaged in an active publicity campaign with local media. An article on January 20 in northern New Jersey’s Record newspaper (“Don Bosco Prep mourns losses at Haitian school belonging to same Catholic order” ) led to extensive coverage of Thursday's school Masses by The Record, Suburban News, 1010 WINS (biggest AM radio station in New York, with the largest number of listeners in the U.S.); Cablevision's News Channel 12 New Jersey; FOX Channel 5; WMBC-TV; NBC News. On January 22 Fr. Louis Molinelli, the school’s director, was interviewed about Haiti by WABC News and Verizon FIOS TV.
FOX 5 NY “NJ School Mourns Sister School in Haiti” (Jan. 21)

Channel 12’s video:
Since Wednesday afternoon (January 20), the alumni and parents of Don Bosco Prep have contributed nearly $15,000 to the Salesian relief efforts in Haiti. The school has received countless expressions of sympathy for the Salesians’ and their students’ losses in Haiti and. The alumni want the Salesians and the people of Haiti to know that they are in their prayers.
Salesian Missions logistics personnel have received confirmation that the first three containers from Cross International are ready to be shipped. The port of arrival is yet to be determined, as the port of Barahona is not a designated international seaport.
After Salesian Missions communicated with the UN Logistics Clusters, they confirmed the installation of a UN General Coordination Center in Barahona with distribution center in Jimani. It is probable that Fr. Mark will extend his stay in Santo Domingo for a few more days. In light of this, a local coordination meeting is being worked on to use UN transportation means as part of Salesian relief efforts.
A bill has passed Congress to allow donations made to a U.S. charitable organization, such as Salesian Missions, for Haiti between January 12 and February 28 to be taken as tax deductions for 2009. The President is expected to sign the bill into law. See

Germany’s Misereor plans to send two architects to Port-au-Prince next month.
Salesian Missions’ Web page ( has been updated to include news and photos from Haiti and press releases that are readily accessible. News updates are posted daily at the New Rochelle Province Web site (
Some other video links:
NBC/MSNBC “Cite Soleil's best and brightest buried in mission school” (Jan. 21) – appeared on MSNBC homepage
(They filmed at ENAM – great piece. We are hoping the network will pick this up as a national feature) (NY Hudson Valley) “A school turned graveyard” (Jan. 21) (That entry followed one on Jan. 19, part of “Reflections on one life lost.”)

Wall Street Journal “U.S. churches look for their own in Haiti” (Jan. 18)
CNN “Hatians lean on their faith” (Jan. 17) - Look for the specific video (They show the first Sunday Mass at St. Jean Bosco church)

“Salesian Missions Hit Hard in Port-au-Prince, Frantically Working to Provide Aid as Humanitarian Workers Become Victims and Among Missing”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Relief Efforts Update

Haiti Relief Efforts Update

In New Rochelle, Salesian Missions is trying to collect information related to six areas of concern:
1. strategies for intervention, on three themes, immediate and long-term: saving lives, rebuilding lives, rebuilding structures;
2. setting up infrastructure through a local emergency office and satellite phone contact;
3. finances: collecting and distributing funds; partnering with others
4. outgoing information: getting updates from Haiti, preparing all sorts of reports, financial accounting;
5. offers of cooperation from persons (volunteers) and organizations (grants, services, etc.);
6. public relations: collecting and sharing information, photos, video from all our Salesian partners, as well as more general information about Haiti.

Fr. Mark Hyde arrived in Santo Domingo on Wednesday evening and had a first talk with the provincial and his team right away. Before leaving New York, Fr. Mark was interviewed by NBC News on relief programs in Haiti. CNN has offered a national pro bono advertisement campaign for Salesian emergency relief programs worth $10,000.

The SDBs are sheltering 3,500 refugees at Carrefour-Thorland. Photos from this site were posted by ANS several days ago. But many of them still need tents. More dramatic is what the FMAs are doing: caring for 3,500 at Pétion-Ville and 7,000 at their school in Thorland. The sisters report that they have many children without parents.

Sr. Annecie Audate, animator (superior) in Thorland, writes: “We have divided the camp into sectors to facilitate order. We have distributed approximately 800 tents to the people and also distributed water and some help given to us by our sisters in the Dominican Republic. Every morning we have the celebration of the Holy Mass with all the people present and in the afternoon we pray the Rosary and evening prayer together or have [Eucharistic] adoration.”

The SDBs have a water truck moving about the city dispensing clean drinking water, and two more trucks will soon be on their way.
Pictures pertaining to the food distribution mission to Haiti have be transmitted via separate e-mails. The 11 trucks from the D.R. (1 + the 10-truck convoy) went to Pétion-Ville. On January 21, three more trucks with 1,500 bags of dry rations were leave Barahona with Thorland as their destination. Each of these bags will serve one family for three days, for a total of more than 20,000 meals.

Fr. Zucchi Olibrice confirmed the following numbers of students before the earthquake: mini schools: 20,000; three-month short technical courses at ENAM: 360; regular students at ENAM: 1,040. The UN Disaster Assessment & Coordination Team (UNDAC) has confirmed that an On-site Operations and Coordination Center (OSOCC) team was sent to ENAM on Monday, January 18. Apparently they made some sort of survey but didn’t act to recover any bodies; the report we received was vague.

Fr. Zucchi told Mr. Ortega that there were 200 casualties among the ENAM students. They were 5-17 years old, some of the best and brightest young women and men studying to be teachers.

In addition, 19 people were killed at the Mini Schools facility headquartered at the ENAM-LAKAY compound.

Those whose bodies have been recovered at these places, including 85-year-old Brother Hubert Sanon, have been buried in a common grave near the school.

The church and parish center of Cite Soleil have collapsed around children who were at catechism classes. Rescue teams are still working to find people alive in the rubble.

An OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) report dated January 19 states: “Minor damages were reported in Les Cayes (South department) where 12 houses collapsed and 500 people where wounded. Health structures in the area are overwhelmed and 200 people are displaced.” There is a Salesian school with youth center, and three confreres, at Les Cayes; we have not received any damage reports from them.

VIS (the Italian Salesian NGO) has offered to support the coordination of emergency relief and the installation of the coordination center. In addition to its own volunteers, VIS is ready to send experts in relief management for identified special tasks. The joint provincial meeting to take place on Friday will review this offer as well as the offer received from the Spanish Salesian NGO Jovenes y Desarrollo (JyD).

BEGECA, a German procurement agency, has offered its services. BEGECA is recognized by the disaster relief department of the EU – ECHO – for purchasing relief items in their emergency programs. BEGECA has been a partner of Salesian NGOs for many years. A coordination officer from BEGECA will soon be posted in Port-au-Prince. BEGECA also has offered a plant for cleaning 2,000 to 3,000 liters of water/hour in Port-au-Prince. The offer includes sending two technicians for its installation and training in Haiti, free of charge. 1,000,000 water cleansing pills from Jugend Dritte Welt in Bonn are already en route to Santo Domingo for Haiti. Another 500,000 have been offered by Jugend Eine Welt Austria.

Fr. Mark spoke with Cross International USA’s president, who confirmed an offer of 200 containers of relief supplies— dry food, rice, beans, cooking oil, personal hygiene kits, drinking water, blankets, and tarps—for different relief agencies in Haiti, including the Salesians in the first place. Cross International has confirmed that they are ready to ship the first containers within the next 2-3 days.

A support center will be established in Santo Domingo with an implementation office in Port-au-Prince. Support offers have been received from JyD and VIS. An offer for a professional with Creole proficiency to serve in the support center has been made by JyD.

The logistical support center for emergency relief will be placed in Barahona, where the SDBs have been offered open space at the international airport at Barahona for temporary storage of the containers. Fr. Pichardo, the provincial, has also authorized making the chapel in Barahona more secure in order to use it immediately for storage space.
The donated food stuffs and other relief items will be trucked from Barahona to Jimani, D.R. (on the southernmost border with Haiti), where the SDBs are currently looking for warehouse space for repacking of donated good into smaller family-size packages. Smaller packages will then trucked be to Port-au-Prince. The Salesians of Haiti still fear that security for a larger warehouse in Haiti is not yet possible. Target distribution areas in Port-au-Prince are Carrefour-Thorland , Cité Soleil, ENAM, and Jacmel (an FMA house). has added Salesian Missions to the approved charities on its “Impact Your World” section of its site, in addition to donating $10,000 in free advertising for our relief effort in Haiti. Those ads will begin running later today. Here is a link to what that looks like:
The Sandals Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International) has designated Salesian Missions as one of the recipients of funds from its Haiti Relief Fund. Press Release:
On Friday, January 22, Fr. Mark Hyde, SDB, Martin Diggs (SM-NR photographer), Fr. Juan Linares, SDB, and Fr. Victor Pichardo will travel to Port-au-Prince by helicopter for a coordination meeting with the Haiti and Antilles provincial councils of the SDBs and FMAs. Bro. Albert Rodriguez, the Antilles treasurer, and Franklin Ortega, the Antilles director of development, will go by road. The meeting will take place at the SDBs’ Port-au-Prince provincial house at 10:00 a.m.--outside “under a tree” (the building not being safe). Before the meeting, the team will visit damaged Salesian sites in Port-au-Prince. The return to Santo Domingo is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.

Salesian Missions has had a conference call with Visionlink, Inc., in order to put in an emergency relief database. The company has developed emergency communication systems for the Red Cross, various humanitarian aid organizations, and more than 200 pharmaceutical companies.

The Haitian provincial council will start to discern tomorrow on priorities and general future organization of their activities in Haiti. There are offers to support the reconstruction of Salesian educational infrastructure from Gobierno de Castilla y Leon (through JyD), Misereor/city of Aachen (through Salesian Missions, Bonn), the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation & Development–BMZ (through the Salesian NGO Jugend Dritte Welt), and the Rector Major.

Salesian institutions all across the U.S. are praying and raising funds for their “Salesian brothers and sisters” in Haiti. For example, see Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.:
FMAs from different provinces have expressed their readiness to leave for Haiti to help, and there are a dozen lay volunteers from their houses in the D.R. who are ready to go. But because of security problems they have not been free to go the Haiti. The FMAs of the United States are gathering emergency items to have them on site as soon as possible. They are also receiving help and solidarity from the sisters of other religious institutes in various parts of the world and from many lay people who have been affected by the enormity of the damage caused by the earthquake. The FMAs in Haiti, in turn, are assisting the sisters of other congregations who can’t get it anywhere else. That has included arranging transport to the D.R. for those seriously injured.
Salesians Continue to Respond to Needs in Haiti

Fr. Mark Hyde left on Wednesday morning, January 20, for Port-au-Prince via Santo Domingo in order to take part in a morale boosting exercise and a strategy-development working session with the provincial councils of the Antilles and Haiti provinces. The meeting will be held in Port-au-Prince on Friday. Fr. Mark is bringing satellite phones with him.

In Fr. Mark’s absence, Jaime Correa and Adam Rudin of the New Rochelle office and Hans-Jurgen Dorrich of the Bonn office, who came to New Rochelle on January 8 for business that obviously had no connection to the earthquake, are managing the command center in New Rochelle.

The Spanish NGO Jovenes y Desarrollo has offered to make available two of its staff personnel already posted in Santo Domingo to assist in the ongoing emergency relief effort. JyD has already supported the Antilles Province in setting up their project development office.

A proposal for the structure of an emergency relief and reconstruction data base has been developed and is being distributed for the comments and feedback of NGOs and mission procures.

Salesian Missions has been in contact with UNDP, who in turn has alerted a UN team to assist in recovery efforts of the 200-500 bodies trapped/missing/dead under the rubble at ENAM.
Many NGOs and Salesian houses are working non-stop to bring the necessary relief supplies as quickly as possible. The New Rochelle Missions Office continues with its role as the center for information, communications, and organization while the Salesians in the Dominican Republic are dealing with the practical side of things, ensuring the safe arrival of the help being sent.

The Salesian NGO Jugend Eine Welt in Austria has offered to make a request in cooperation with CARITAS Austria to the ECHO Emergency Relief Program of the EU for 500,000 euros. Jugend Eine Welt has received from MIVA Austria the approval of two project vehicles, one for the SDBs and the other for the FMAs in Haiti, to facilitate movement in the emergency situation.

The Spanish NGO Solidaridad Don Bosco from Seville has offered to support the reconstruction phase by submitting proposals to public donors in Spain.

Salesian Missions is working with Cross International to get 200 containers with relief supplies to Port-au-Prince. As of the morning of January 20, we were considering the international airport at Barahona, D.R. (there is a Salesian house there, the closest to the Haitian border), as the most likely reception and storage center for this material, from which to truck it to such destination or destinations as may be set up in Port-au-Prince. Part of Fr. Hyde’s work during his current trip is to learn what this/these are. But other shipping arrangements also were under consideration—whatever works to get the goods on site ASAP.

“Poor Haiti, poor Haiti.” Stretched out in a hospital bed in Santo Domingo, Fr. Attilio Stra gave a moving account of the moment the earth shook in Port-au-Prince on January 12 to Alessandra d’Asaro, a journalist from International Volunteers for Development (VIS).

The radio interview, in Italian, is available at the audio section of the ANS site:
In spite of the constraints of his present situation, the veteran Salesian shows the great fortitude typical of missionaries used to being face to face with poverty, violence, and social injustice. His thoughts quickly turn to the 300 or so street children buried in the Salesian school in the Salina district of Port-au-Prince.

The number of pupils who were in the school at 4:53 p.m. on January 12 is unclear because on the streets you don’t count the numbers in the group. Here the youngsters had somewhere to go, and the possibility of hoping for a better future: getting away from the dangers of the streets, studying and learning a trade, as happens in Salesian schools all over the world.
In the BohnenMini Schools the silence is deafening. The youngsters and Bro. Sanon, who lost his life with them, have been buried in a common grave near the school. Among the ruins, pages from exercise books drift in the warm breeze, chairs, colored pencils, school reports have been scattered among the dust and the rubble by the earthquake.

Piles of debris heaped up, confusion among the upended floors. Through the gaps in the collapsed perimeter walls people come and go, taking everything – piles of paper cups, broken chairs, abandoned shoes, and those sheets of paper. In the tumult one comes across what seem to be pools of stagnant water. “It’s what was left by the corpses,” explains Fr. Lephène Pierre, a Salesian from the ENAM community. “We just need to rebuild the wall to avoid so much mess and to increase security, which in these circumstances is always too little.”

Fr. Lephene Pierre at ENAM

The Haitian government has been gravely wounded, with many ministers among those killed in the earthquake, and the presidential palace has completely collapsed. In the stead of the local government, the United Nations, the United States, various other countries, and many private charities—including the Salesians and the Salesian Sisters--have made it their priority to provide food, water, and first aid.

An 11-truck convoy with water, dry foods, and emergency relief items arrived safely at Port-au-Prince on Saturday from La Vega, Dominican Republic. It was escorted by a Dominican military detail. Pictures of this mission upon departure from La Vega and arrival in Port-au-Prince are awaited. The Salesians also have a water truck moving about the city offering its precious contents to the needy.

Food and water being distributed from one of the trucks that the Salesians brought in from the Dominican Republic.

“In this tragedy,” continues Fr. Lephène, “what is very moving is the solidarity being shown by the whole world.” At ENAM a team of civil defense workers coming from all over Latin America is working day and night, still hoping to find someone alive or dead among the ruins.
Lasting images: hands upraised to catch the water ration from the trucks on the crowded roads of the city; the loud noise overhead of planes and helicopters; makeshift tents at the side of the roads; and, in spite of everything, the Salesians continuing their work, never forgetting to smile even in the face of such tragedy.

Following the events in Haiti and relief efforts here (as part of the "crisis team" at Salesian Missions) has kept me from getting my Sunday homily up promptly. But here it is.

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jan. 17, 2010

John 2: 1-11
Troop 40 B.S.A.

“There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee” (John 2: 1).

Do you wonder why they ran out of wine after Jesus and his disciples showed up at a wedding? Evidently everyone was having a pretty good time!

More seriously, Jesus’ presence at a wedding and his intervention to keep this wedding from becoming a social disaster show that God approves of marriage. You’d be surprised to know that some people, even Christians, at different times in history, haven’t approved of marriage, have even considered it sinful.

In fact, if you were paying attention to the 1st reading, you noticed that Isaiah uses marriage as a sign of the relationship between God and his people: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder [or Maker] shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you” (Is 62:5). Nor is that the only Old Testament text to use that kind of language. One entire book, the Song of Songs, uses it. And St. Paul uses it in some of his letters in the New Testament, calling the Church the bride of Christ.

Along the same line, before Communion at every Mass, we acclaim, “Happy are those who are called to his supper,” i.e., the supper of the Lamb of God. With one word left out, that’s a quotation from Rev 19:9: “Blessed [or Happy] are those who have been called to the wedding feast [or supper] of the Lamb.” The word omitted in the Mass text is “wedding” or “marriage.” That acclamation reminds us that Holy Communion is a foretaste of heaven, which the Bible often compares to a feast, a banquet—especially a wedding banquet. The wedding, indeed, is the one between God and his people, between Jesus and his Church.

What else can we learn from observing Jesus, and his holy mother Mary, at a wedding? They are interested in and concerned about the important events and the everyday lives of people. What’s more important in the lives of most people than their wedding, their marriage? What’s more “everyday” than married life and family? Jesus and Mary are there in the lives of these friends of theirs. We don’t even know their names; the gospel doesn’t tell us. And that means that they represent all of us. God cares about all of us all the time, even in the most ordinary parts of our lives, and he wants them to turn out well; he wants us to be happy—like the outcome of this wedding feast.

What else do we see in this story of Jesus at Cana? What was the immediate reason why Jesus intervened to head off a big problem? It was his mother’s intercession. Somehow she has become aware of the wine shortage, and she goes to Jesus with an implicit request that he do something about it. Her words to him are simple: “They have no wine” (1:3)—an observation. But he understands the request: Would you do something? For his answer is: “That doesn’t concern me. It’s not yet my time” (1:4), my time to act, my time to transform people’s lives. But she doesn’t accept that answer. She persists—not with Jesus directly but with the household servants, whom she sends to Jesus for instructions (1:5). And he does what she asks; he saves the day. He can’t refuse his mother.

That relationship between Jesus and his mother is the reason for our confidence in her, the reason why we so often invoke her guidance, her help, her protection, the reason why—as 2 of you know well—why Don Bosco and the Salesians call upon her as the Help of Christians. We know that she’ll go to Jesus for us and let him know that we need him and he should do something for us, as he did for the people at Cana. At this time, for instance, we can call on Mary to intercede with Jesus for the people of Haiti.

A final lesson from what happened at Cana: Mary told the servants to go to Jesus and “do whatever he tells you.” On the face of it, filling 6 jars with water (1:6-7) wasn’t going to help the situation, was it? But they did what Jesus told them and got a miracle (1:7-9). Mary would tell us the same thing: Do whatever Jesus tells you if you want to be saved. Follow the teachings of Jesus in the Scriptures. Follow the teachings of those whom Jesus has left us as teachers, viz., the leaders of the Church: the Holy Father and our bishops. More important than having water turned into wine is having us turned into God’s holy people, into saints, by living the way Jesus teaches us. I said earlier that God wants us to be happy; if we listen to Jesus we will be happy, in this life and for all eternity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Salesian Situation Becomes Clearer; Help Starts to Arrive

Salesian Situation Becomes Clearer; Help Starts to Arrive

Information about the situation of the Salesians in Haiti has been arriving from Port-au-Prince chiefly through the Dominican Republic. In New Rochelle the relief operation is being coordinated with the Salesians in the D.R., in various mission offices and NGOs, with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, with UN agencies, with Catholic Relief Services, etc.

The Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez, is being constantly updated on the situation and developments and continues to offer his encouragement to the Salesians in Haiti, who have been so severely tried. On January 18 Fr. Chavez issued a letter to the entire Salesian Congregation, appealing for urgent, even sacrificial assistance to our brothers in Haiti.

The two Salesian seminarians who died on January 12, Brothers Wilfrid Atsime and Valsaint Vibrun, were aged 28 and 26, respectively. [These are in addition to Brother Hubert Sanon, 85, who died at ENAM; his death was reported immediately, but the two seminarians were "missing" for some time.] The other Salesians in Port-au-Prince are safe and well, although some were injured; some of them have lost family and friends. As reported earlier, all the Salesian sisters are safe, and they are offering hospitality and other forms of aid to numerous displaced people.

The most tragic news is the death of the Salesian pupils at ENAM. The first estimate of over 200 youngsters buried under the ruins with some of their teachers, remains the one most frequently given in reports, although some have said it could be as high as 500. It doesn’t seem that anyone has a hard figure yet. Bodies are being recovered—60 of them as of January 18. Many other Salesian pupils died in their own homes.

Some bodies that had been pulled out of ENAM.
On the CNN site there is a collection of short clips about the activities of the Salesians before the earthquake.

Fr. Victor Pichardo, provincial of the Salesians in the Antilles, reached Port-au-Prince with a military helicopter and spent a night there. While there he was also to gather practical information for the next stage of the relief work. On his return Fr. Pichardo took Fr. Attilio Stra, director of the ENAM community, who had survived the collapse of the building, for hospital treatment in Santo Domingo. His injuries are not serious. He was visited on Saturday evening by the President Leonel Fernandez Reyna of the Dominican Republic.

On Friday, January 15, three days after the earthquake, a technical commission from the Dominican Republic reached Port-au-Prince by road and obtained first-hand knowledge of the situation on behalf of the Antilles Salesian Province, as well as the rest of the Salesian world. Bro. Alberto Rodriguez, provincial treasurer, Mr. Franklin Ortega from the Development Office of Antilles Province, and Frs. Angel Sanchez and Gabriel Almonte from the Barahona community, which is the closest to Haiti, saw for themselves the chaotic situation and the powerlessness of the people now living on the streets, the squares, and public parks.

The first stop was at the St. John Bosco community (ENAM), the most seriously affected of the Salesian works in Haiti. Here they met Fr. Wim Boksebeld and Fr. Zucchi Ange Olibrice. “Silence, suffering, and sadness reigned,” the four visitors said. Most of the pupils and their teachers are still buried under the ruins. As with many places in the city, there has been looting, with what remained of desks, chairs, and computers carted off.
Gianluca Antonelli, executive director of International Volunteers for Development (VIS), in conjunction with the New Rochelle Salesian Mission Office, has promised to get the Italian civil protection authorities, already working in the city, involved.

The other Salesian centers in Port-au-Prince are all in the same situation. The Salesians are camping out in the courtyards and spending the night in cars or in the open air.

The visitors met Fr. Jacques Charles, the current superior of the vice province of Haiti, and his appointed successor, Fr. Ducange Sylvain. The most urgent need is to provide the Salesians in Haiti with the minimum necessary infrastructure to take in and care for people. The first things they need are drinking water, canned food supplies, and food for young children because there is very little food in the city and what can be found is by now often contaminated; then they need medicine and tents.

On their return to the D.R., Bro. Rodriguez and Mr. Ortega by teleconference updated the New Rochelle Mission Office crisis committee, who have been planning for relief assistance and its distribution since the day after the earthquake.

By Monday evening 11 trucks with food and medicine had reached the Salesians from the D.R., and these were being distributed to the people. Where possible, assistance centers have been established at the houses of both the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, who are doing all they can to welcome and help the people.

In the video information section of ANS a documentary is available (, made some years ago by Missioni Don Bosco of Turin, which gives an account of the work of the Salesians in Haiti before the earthquake.
Also, ANS interviewed Fr. Jacques Charles early last year about the Salesians in Haiti; the video is posted at

On the evening of January 18, the Salesian Sisters posted an excerpt from a message sent to Mother General Yvonne Reungoat by Sister Mathile Piard, who was injured when the house at Pétion-Ville, fell in on her. She thanked Mother Yvonne for her closeness to all of the sisters and then described what she went through: “I was in the house when the earth began to quake. I ran but I could not immediately get out. My leg was wounded, as was an ear, and I fractured a finger. I thank the Lord, who left me my life. I thought I was going to die as I saw the ceiling falling on me while I way trying to run outside. I was saved, thanks to two men who came to get me. I ask the Lord to bless them. The house of Pétion-Ville collapsed; a part of the house dedicated to Mary Help of Christians saw the fall of the chapel and the school. Now we are gathering the people in the parts that remained standing in all the houses. There are many wounded and dead. The country has nothing left...we lack everything.”

The FMAs from the Antilles Province of the continue to bring help to Port-au-Prince. The provincial, Sr. Carmen Figueroa, informed Mother Yvonne that the sisters of her province are arranging with some volunteers to bring more aid and that one of the FMAs is also contacting the religious communities of other congregations to find out what help they need.

The Colombian TV channel RCN transmitted an interview with Sr. Rocio Perez, FMA, a Colombian missionary at one of the Thorland houses. The broadcast showed some FMAs working in a large camp of more than 3,000 persons set up in the green zone of one of our communities. Sr. Rocio said that during December they had received a gift of a large number of blankets, and these have now been given out to the people. The reporters commented that where the FMAs are working they are one of the few well-organized groups, and the people who were interviewed were grateful for the help received.

On January 17 the provincial council of the SDB Haiti Vice Province met to make a first assessment of the situation and make some decisions for the immediate future, such as where to relocate the Salesians among the remaing houses.

The Salesian house of ENAM is completely destroyed. So are the Mini Schools of Father Bohnen (OPEPB)--the kitchen that prepared the meals for most of the outlying sites where meals were served, the administrative offices, and ENAM itself. The dormitory at Gressier-Leogane has collapsed. The church and the parish center of Cité Soleil have totally collapsed.

The house at Fleuriot-Tabarre has been seriously damaged, as has that at Pétion-Ville. But these have become reception centers and at present have about 3,500 people there, sleeping outside in the courtyard. At Thorland the Salesian residence has been damaged, the chapel split in two, and the retreat house totally out of commission.

The Salesians who were living in the communities of ENAM and Fleuriot are being housed in other communities in Haiti, while the postnovices will go for the time being to the Antilles Province.

To coordinate relief better, to facilitate communication, and to plan for the development of activities, a Salesian Crisis Committee has been established made up of Fr. Jacques Charles, Fr. Ducange Sylvain, and Fr. Zucchi Olibrice. Each community in Haiti will need to send in a detailed report of the situation of the Salesians, the young people, and the property.

The priority needs are: the temporarily re-locating the Salesians, finding help for the people now in the care of the Salesians, protecting the houses and the works, repairing the perimeter walls, creating a team to assess the condition of the buildings, and finally setting in motion a medium-term reconstruction program for the destroyed buildings.

Photos of some of the damage and of displaced persons staying at the Salesian school in Thorland are at the ANS “Image Bank”:

Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle, is planning to fly to Santo Domingo on Wednesday and be in Port-au-Prince by Friday to meet personally with the local Salesians and see the situation there for himself.