Father Santiago Arribas, CM, who resides in the community house in Granada and who is pastor of the parish, Regina Mundo¸ has sent us the following reports and photographs … all of which chronicle his visit to the island of Haiti, a visit that took place just a few days before the hurricane, Matthew, assaulted this country with death and destruction.
The primary motive for Father Arribas’ visit was the celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Congregation in that nation. Father Santiago was the first Vincentian Missionary to serve in Haiti (September 27, 1986). Therefore, his eye-witness account some thirty years later has great historical importance. What follows is the transcript of the chronicle that he sent us.
I will attempt to give you a brief but succinct account of my visit to this beloved land. The 30th anniversary of the presence of the Congregation of the Mission can be summarized by referring to two significant events.
Thus, the first event, a celebration that took place on September 19, 2016 in Puerto Rico. Since one is unable to reap what one has not sown, we began by giving thanks to God for our missionary vocation. Father Maximiano Santos is certainly one of those outstanding and distinguished individuals because he has dedicated his whole life (fifty years of vocation) to the mission in Santo Domingo. Because of his health, Father Maximiano was unable to accompany us in this celebration. Nevertheless, we remembered him and at the same time gave thanks to God for the presence of Manuel Aznar Bello, CM and Santiago Arribas, CM (both of whom participated in the celebration of this event). All the confreres in this area participated in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the fraternal meal that followed. The young priests who were present at this celebration spoke of feeling encouraged to follow in the footsteps of those pioneers who gave such a powerful example of commitment and dedication.
The second event was a celebration that took place on September 27, 2016 in Haiti. The story takes us back to 1985. At that time, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, Father Richard McCullen, CM, made a canonical visitation of the Province of Puerto Rico. The Visitor of the Province, Father Gregory Joy, CM, and his council rented a plane and took Father McCullen to Haiti. That was October 14, 1985.
The situation in Haiti was not and still is not widely known. When the earthquake of January 12, 2010 was reported to the international community, news agencies had to use their maps to find out where this island nation was located. Haiti became known to people as a result of the earthquake that occurred some six years ago and because of the frequent overthrowing of the government. Haiti is known for its dependency and for its lack of projects that contribute to the development of the people. Once again, on October 6, 2016, the worldwide news focused on Haiti where so many people were killed and were suffering as a result of the destruction that hurricane Matthew inflicted on this island country.
But I am getting ahead of myself … back to where we were, that is, with Father McCullen and his interview with the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Monsignor François Wolf Ligondé, who exclaimed: “Haiti is a Vincentian country”. The Daughters of Charity had been serving and evangelizing in that country for some thirteen years … they had constantly requested the presence of the members of the Congregation of the Mission. Thus, on September 27, 1986, Father Santiago Arribas arrived in Haiti in order to engage in the mission that had been established there. At first, Father resided at the diocesan seminary. Then, two years later, after some cultural and language studies, Father began to look for a place where the Congregation could lay down some roots. At the seminary in Santo Domingo there were several seminarians from Haiti and others who accompanied Father Arribas during the years that he served in that country. Therefore, on September 27, 1990, the Congregation of the Mission established the Mission House in Tabarre/Fleuriot.
Today, there are twenty-one priests and one brother in houses in Puerto Príncipe, in Thomazeau and in Jacmel. From that small seed, the Congregation has flourished and grown and despite the political and economic situation, it continues to grow today. The Sunday and feast day liturgical celebrations are festive and participative (some of these celebrations will continue for three or four hours and no one complains or heads for the doors). These celebrations are animated by song and dance … and the joy becomes contagious.
The participation in the celebration of the Eucharist on the feast of Saint Vincent 2016, filled the Church, the plaza and the surrounding area. The Vincentian Missionaries, who had established the mission in this country, were introduced: Santiago Arribas, René Suffrin and Faustino Burgos. The younger confreres were encouraged to engage in the process of evangelization on behalf of the people of God. Indeed, it has become clear that from its humble beginnings the Congregation has grown and produced much fruit.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM