PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The first Haitian American ordained a bishop was eulogized Thursday, Sept. 2, as a host of clergy, nuns, laity, and fellow prelates from both the United States and his Caribbean homeland attended a Mass of Christian Burial.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, 86, died Aug. 21 at the rectory of St. Gregory the Great Church in Crown Heights. He had served the Diocese of Brooklyn since 1977 while maintaining solid bonds with the Church in Haiti, where he was born in 1934.
Quiet, humble, but never ceasing in his various ministries, even up to his death, were among the recurring descriptions of Bishop Sansaricq.
The Mass was celebrated at the diocese’s Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights.
Bishop Sansaricq had continued to persevere as a leader of relief efforts for Haitians displaced by the Aug. 14 earthquake that ravaged their country. In addition, the celebrant of the Mass, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who leads the Brooklyn Diocese, said the retired auxiliary bishop was diligent in showcasing the varied professional accomplishments of Haitian Americans.
Both projects — to boost assistance to Haiti and to encourage future generations of Haitian Americans — were launched by the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate, which Bishop Sansaricq led after helping to establish it more than 30 years ago.
“He was a thoughtful person, quiet, but very effective” in his acts of service “for the Haitian people, and for, generally, other people of the diocese,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “He will be remembered as one who was an evangelizer and missionary in his own right.
“We’re going to miss him as a great asset; 86 years of age is a long life these days. We thank God for giving him to us,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
The funeral Mass was concelebrated by two Catholic Church leaders from Haiti: Bishop Pierre André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau, and Bishop Glandas Marie Erick Toussaint of the Diocese of Jacmel.
Bishop Dumas said that, although far away geographically, he had been a student of Bishop Sansaricq’s compassion for Haitians and his striving to bring them not only disaster relief, but the Gospel.
“He was an example to us,” Bishop Dumas recalled. “When I met him for the first time, I was invited to come to a Haitian Apostolate conference. I discovered a sweet man. I discovered a compassionate heart. I was touched by the way he served the community we had.
“And I said to myself, ‘I have to learn from him.’ It was this man who taught me about the tenderness of God.”
Bishop DiMarzio said the attendance of the Haitian bishops reflected their nation’s love and respect for the U.S., which helps them spiritually, but also financially, with special concern about natural disasters like the recent earthquake.
“They understood that (Bishop Sansaricq is) symbolic of their connection to the United States, with so many immigrants here and the diaspora, as they call it, of the Haitian people,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “So it was a good thing they were able to come.”
Father Jean-Miguel Auguste, pastor of St. Pius X in Rosedale, Queens, delivered the homily. He recalled how he and Bishop Sansaricq worked together over the years despite some disagreements on issues.
“We were opposites,” Father Auguste said.
But even through their differences, he recalled, Bishop Sansaricq’s humble compassion always prevailed.
The pastor said Bishop Sansaricq “was just a priest — a good one.”
“He loved being a priest,” Father Auguste continued. “He loved other priests. He looked after us and prayed for us.”
The pastor drew applause when he declared that Bishop Sansaricq’s example reminded the clergy that their priestly duties are not just for the inside of churches.
“We should be priests everywhere we go,” he boomed, “and to whoever we meet!”
Scores of priests and fellow bishops filed past Bishop Sansaricq’s casket. Many, including Bishop DiMarzio, placed their hands on it. After the pallbearers moved it to the hearse, each of the bishop’s fellow prelates from the Diocese of Brooklyn took turns sprinkling holy water on the casket of their longtime friend.
Burial followed at the Bishop Chapel Crypt, in Douglaston, N.Y.