Haitian priest reports from homeland on earthquake anniversary

Fr Romane in earthquake zone - (image courtesy Mano-a-Mano)

Fr Romane in earthquake zone - (image courtesy Mano-a-Mano)

His first reaction was disbelief and then he began to worry. Father Romane St Vil, a priest with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, had just heard about the earthquake that rocked his native Haiti. That disaster happened one year ago.

"It's impossible," Father St Vil remembered thinking when he first heard of the disaster. "For a country that's been suffering for so long and the poverty is so rampant, I thought, not again, not this country. It's tough."

Raised in the port city of Jeremie in the southwest, the 44-year-old Fr St Vil has returned to his homeland several times during the past year to help with relief efforts. These journeys have become the crusade - both personal and professional - of his mission life.

Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is the overseas mission outreach of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, following Jesus in serving the poor and others in need in 27 countries. All Catholics are called to mission through baptism, and Maryknoll's mission education outreach in parishes and schools throughout the country engages US Catholics in mission through prayer, donations, as volunteers and through vocations.

During 2011, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers will commemorate its centennial with a theme of The Gift of Mission - The Maryknoll Journey. These missionaries will celebrate as they continue their journey into the next 100 years to share God's love and the Gospel in combating poverty, providing healthcare, building communities andpromoting human rights.

While he was a Maryknoll seminarian, Fr St Vil served in Tanzania. He was assigned to Cambodia after his ordination during 2003 and, most recently, he has been part of a mission promotion and education team in the northeast US.

Within hours of the quake, Fr St Vil learned that his closest relatives were safe. As the days went on, however, he learned that five members of his extended family had died.

During his first trip to Haiti, Fr St Vil specifically ventured into ravaged parts of the capital of Port-au-Prince that had not received direct medical assistance. A month later, he and another Maryknoll priest, Fr Dennis Moorman, were in Haiti with a dozen volunteer doctors and nurses who provided medical care for hundreds of people.

"It feels good to go help," said Fr St Vil at the time, "but at the same time I'm very, very sad. We cannot help everyone and there's a desperation and we're faced with that and think, 'Oh, God, I wish we could do more.'"

While delivering the much needed immediate help, Fr St Vil began to think about Haiti's future. He soon realized that his overall mission was to craft a long-term project in partnership with others that will reflect Maryknoll's mission charism and will establish a lasting presence to create permanent improvement in the quality of life for Haitians.

As of August 2010, approximately $163,000 had been raised by Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers for mission relief work in Haiti. With these funds from Society benefactors, Fr St Vil continues to explore the feasibility of providing physical therapy and trauma relief services along with researching the capability to conduct community building, education, sustainable agricultural and economic development.

To learn more about Mayknoll Fathers and Brothers and the temporary mission in Haiti under the direction of Fr St Vil, visit: http://maryknollsociety.org

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