Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Even In Our Darkest Hour...."

With some attendees sitting in pews salvaged from the fallen cathedral a few yards away, this morning saw a funeral liturgy celebrated not just for Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince and his vicar-general, but for all those lost in last week's quake, a count now estimated at around 100,000.

As previously noted, while the US church was officially represented at the rites by Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York (the chair of Catholic Relief Services) and the USCCB general secretary, Msgr David Malloy, likewise present was Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando -- a veteran of Haitian ministry both in the country and for its diaspora in his native Miami.

A friend of Miot's for over three decades, Wenski said yesterday that he was going to bid his own farewell and to "assess the needs" of the Haitian church "going forward."

Here, the first report from the AP:
"If Monsignor Miot were alive, he would tell us to have courage, to be strong in starting over," said Marie-Andre Baril, a 53-year-old bank teller, whose home was destroyed. "With my faith, I hope to have what he would want us to have. I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying here."

A devout Catholic population here has lost the head of its church, a vivid example of one of the quake's cruelest outcomes. Many of those killed were the very people who, in times of disaster and tragedy, would be sought out for solace and explanation.

Miot, 62, was memorialized as one of those people.

A pastor devoted to the poor, a shy man who came alive in moments of need, he died in his church, among the people he sought to guide through the tragedies, man-made and natural, that too often shake this country....

Hundreds of Haitians made their way from makeshift camps amid the rising tide of garbage and waste to the service, dressed in dark suits and spotless dresses. They lowered their surgical masks, standard wear here against the nauseating smell of death, as they took seats in pews or folding metal chairs.

"You will never find another man like him," said Eric Bruno, a 48-year-old mechanic in a gray wool suit despite the gathering heat. "He would have been the first person here to help, trying to get people everything they need."

The Haitian National Police band played mournful hymns as the crowd settled in.Many pushed handkerchiefs to wet eyes.

Rows of nuns works their rosaries in small, rough hands. The music stopped, and people began singing the words of Psalm 33, a favorite of Miot.

In a message released today to the head of the Haitian bishops, Archbishop Louis Kebreau of Cap-Haitien, Pope Benedict offered his "fervent prayers" and "great spiritual closeness" for "all those touched by this catastrophe," imploring the intercession of the country's patroness -- Our Lady of Perpetual Help -- to "be a mother" who directs every heart toward solidarity with the suffering.

In his own letter, likewise delivered earlier today, the president of the US bishops, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George OMI, assured Kebreau that "the church in the United States stands with you."

"We recall that Jesus too wept at the tomb of one whom he loved," George added. "With you, we recall in trust that He is the resurrection and the life, offering Himself to us and calling is to Himself even in our darkest hour."

PHOTO: Getty