Even great saints have their weaker moments. When St. Teresa of Avila’s wagon broke an axle in the middle of crossing a ford, she raised her eyes to heaven, and cried, ‘If this is how you treat your friends, Lord, it’s no wonder you have so few of them!’

But of course Saint Teresa knew that there are worse things than a broken axle. The same is true today. When the earthquake struck Haiti in early 2010, houses crumbled, churches and bridges collapsed and great rifts opened up in the streets. It marked a complete rupture with the past, a historical turning point – as nothing has been the same since. Not even poverty.

Even before then, Haiti was one of the world’s poorest nations, but the earthquake and its aftermath have left people with even starker prospects for the future. You could say their lives are still shaken by the earthquake today. And yet the Catholics of Haiti are still faithful to God. They seem to lack almost everything, but they have not lost their hope. This axle, around which their life revolves, has not been broken. Across vast swathes of the country the Church is the only ray of hope for many.

The state has, to all intents and purposes, imploded and in many places simply no longer functions. As the infrastructure has collapsed so have the roads. In the southwest of the country the roads end abruptly, and at 500 metres above sea level they become winding tracks of earth. One of these leads to the small town of Palmes among the hills and mountains, where the parish of Our Lady of the Presentation is located. Its young and enthusiastic priest, Father Roud Sauveur takes care of everything, as there is no one else. He looks after nine schools with 2,780 children, a sparsely equipped health centre and nine chapels.

Of the 36,000 inhabitants almost half are Catholic; many others follow voodoo cults. It is virtually impossible for him to celebrate Holy Mass in all nine chapels every weekend. Father Roud has great difficulties navigating all the roads by bicycle.

And sometimes he has to visit several dozen sick people in a week. So he is constantly on the go. For the moment there is no possibility of training lay catechists or pastoral helpers. There is a shortage of teachers in the schools, since no one wants to come to this inaccessible area. A sturdy 4×4 would not only make his work much easier in many areas but actually make it possible in the first place.

Then he could bring teachers and volunteers into the hill schools from the nearest town, or transport mothers-to-be into the town. Three hours on foot would be cut to just one by car. ‘A car would be like an active helper, lending a hand’, Father Roud tells us. For Father Roud it was a moment of great joy when he heard that we would be helping him, it was a glimmer of hope amidst the formidable obstacles of everyday life.


This article can be found in Mirror 0417.