PROSPECT HEIGHTS — If and when the parts of Haiti ravaged by last month’s earthquake are rebuilt, the damaged churches there should come first, says a leading local Catholic clergyman.
Bishop Pierre André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau, commenting Thursday on the current circumstances in his homeland, recalled that conditions at the Cathedral of St. Anne had been getting back to normal after an earlier quake, in 2010, inflicted severe damage.
Now, in the wake of harm done on Aug. 14, Bishop Dumas said he awaits an engineering report before he decides whether this important building in his diocese can be fixed — or demolished.
The bishop provided his update moments before the Mass of Christian Burial for retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, who died Aug. 21, a week after the 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
Bishop Dumas said five parishes in his diocese lost their churches, and about 40 mission chapels connected to the churches were also damaged.
He estimated that as many as 200 houses of worship were damaged around the country. Repairing them is critical, he noted, because the Church is the guiding force for most Haitians.
“We have a lot of needs now,” Bishop Dumas said about the full toll taken. “Many houses have been destroyed. At the same time, a lot of schools have been destroyed.”
He added that there is scant food, limited water, and a great need for hygienic items.
“But,” he said, “we put the focus on the rebuilding of the churches because, we think, that is how we rebuild the human being, to give hope to the soul, hope to the spirit, and to rebuild the heart.
“If you can rebuild the human being, spiritually, you can rebuild the country. This is the need.”
The Diocese of Brooklyn already has a connection to the Cathedral of St. Anne. It is the church that last winter received a gift of pews and a church bell from the diocese’s Office of Patrimony. Those items were not touched by the latest devastation.
Bishop Dumas affirmed that the spirit of Haitians is unshaken, despite having suffered another deadly natural disaster. The nation was hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and torrential rains from Tropical Storm Grace struck just days after the recent earthquake.
“Yet the people stand up,” Bishop Dumas said. “They become strong. And then they started the first step of solidarity within themselves — like to share a bottle of water among five or 10 people. Can you imagine that?
“People do not have fear to help other people. And also, I see some moms: Sometimes before they give rice to their kids, they try to share it with other families. You can be touched by that.
“It’s a way to show solidarity and not just to take for yourself.”