Faith in Haiti
By Fr. Louis Merosne
Grandma usually gave me a penny on our way to church.
We didn’t have Mass often; only once a year during the patronal feast when the priest from the parish church would come by on horseback to celebrate Mass. There was a celebration of the Word every Sunday.
We were poor but lived gratefully without the help of cars, fans, electricity, or much of what we take for granted today. Moving to Port-au-Prince, the capital, and eventually to Boston was a big shock.
In 2002, I moved to Ohio to study at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I discovered a love for the charism of St. Teresa of Calcutta and wanted to join the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in Mexico. Meanwhile, I had hoped to return to and minister in Haiti, but desirous to choose God’s will, I decided to apply for entrance into the community in Mexico.
While leading mission trips to Haiti, different people were advised me to consider serving there. After a personal retreat under the guidance of my spiritual director, the late Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., I felt that it was clear that I was being called to Haiti.
I contacted Most. Rev. Pierre André Dumas, bishop of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne, to share with him my desire to join the diocese. He ordained me a priest on October 31, 2011. I have been serving in Haiti ever since.
There are ten dioceses in Haiti, a country with a population of about 11 million. My diocese is the youngest, being only twelve years old. There are thirty-eight parishes in the diocese. I pastor the Cathedral of Saint Anne, which comprises the main cathedral church and four mission churches/chapels where I make sure Masses are celebrated regularly, in contrast to what I had experienced as a child.
The Holy Father has said that he wants a “poor Church, for the poor.” This reality is lived very tangibly in Haiti. As a pastor, I am privileged to be immersed in the lives of my people who are poor. But I, too, am poor. Even though I am still burdened by heavy student loans, I—like the great majority of my brother priests in Haiti—do not receive a salary. We depend on providence as God touches hearts to come to our aid.
I have set up a not-for-profit organization called Mission To The Beloved to preach the Gospel and serve the poor. The name inspires us to think of the poor as God’s beloved people. He loves them first. Therefore, it is a privilege for us to be collaborators with God in loving whom he loves. Through the organization, we raise funds to run all the ministries at the parish including celebrating group marriages for cohabiting couples, making emergency trips to the hospital with the poor, sharing thousands of plates with the prisoners, and opening and sustaining Catholic schools. I have classrooms in the rectory and in all four chapels until we can raise funds to build adequate schools.
Despite the poverty, the joy and faith of the people are contagious. We love to dance! That is why we often have outdoor missions where we dance for the Lord and praise him for his presence in our lives. My parishioners give the widow’s mite with joy. On a good Sunday, we collect about $30. We have a monthly budget of about $6,000!
My grandma gave me a penny for church. God received it and blessed it. Today I give my life to the Church for the poor. May Jesus bless it and make it useful for his beloved.
Download this article as a pdf here.
Fr. Louis Merosne serves as an episcopal vicar and pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Anne in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
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