Haitians from around the diocese gathered at Our Lady of Refuge Church, Flatbush, to celebrate 209 years of independence of the first free black republic in the world.
“Let us rejoice for the Lord has blessed us with a new year,” Father Jean Moise Delva, director of the diocesan Haitian apostolate, told the congregation which filled the entire Brooklyn church.
During his homily, retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq told the Haitian congregation that as its members celebrate a new year of freedom, they must also commit themselves to the responsibilities that come with freedom. He said all Haitians must have strong hearts in order to bring prosperity to their native land.
“We are called to build up the church,” he said. “If you don’t have good character, you will lose heart.”
The Haitian-born bishop also reminded the congregation that freedom is powerful.
“Freedom is like a two-edge sword,” he said. “It can be a great tool but it can also hurt you.”
Marjorie Franck-Mingot, parishioner of Holy Cross, Flatbush, who served as lector during the Independence Day Mass, said she was grateful to be able to contribute to the celebration.
“We are able to live our everyday life because we are free,” she said. She said she hopes the Haitian diaspora can use its freedom to serve as the light of the Church for the world.
During the Mass, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio asked the people to be generous to their native land through prayer.
“We gather today, as a people of faith, to pray through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of Haiti,” he said. “Haiti needs more prayer. We need to pray to change Haiti.”
Father Delva also reminded the congregation of the importance of Mary to Haiti. Haitian Independence Day is the same date as the feast day of Mary, the Mother of God.
“Let us rejoice for Mary, the Mother of the Church, has brought us a Savior,” he said. “We entrust our country to Mary for she cares for us.”
Adding to the festive mood of the occasion, the Haitian diocesan choir sang traditional Haitian songs during the liturgy and at the reception afterwards.
The reception offered the Haitian community a chance to celebrate its heritage with traditional food and performances. It also afforded Bishop DiMarzio an opportunity to thank the Haitian community.
“It’s always a privilege to be with you,” he said. “I really appreciate your faith.”