By Barb Arland-Fye
The late Msgr. Leo Feeney was a huge supporter of his parish’s efforts to build a relationship with the people of Haiti. When the pastor of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire died unexpectedly before a big fund-raiser in October 2008, Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was already on his way to Iowa for the fundraiser. Archbishop Miot and Father Reginald Joachim, also of Haiti, were among the concelebrants at Msgr. Feeney’s funeral Mass at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire.
Now parishioners from the LeClaire parish and others who are part of ServeHAITI are mourning the loss of Archbishop Miot, who died Jan. 12 in a massive earthquake there.
“He was such a wonderful man. We lost a wonderful soul, truly a man of God. It’s just heartbreaking,” said Liz McDermott, a volunteer with ServeHAITI , who has made numerous mission trips to the medical clinic that ServeHAITI operates in Grand Bois, some 58 miles from Port-au-Prince.
Msgr. Feeney had also made a couple of mission trips to Haiti to assist at the clinic. That’s where he met Archbishop Miot.
“One of last times (Msgr. Leo) was in Haiti, we met with Archbishop Mio at his building in Port-au-Prince,” said McDermott, a member of Our Lady of the River Parish.
When ServeHAITI decided to host a major fund-raiser in Iowa, organizers invited Archbishop Miot to attend, as well as the pastor of the San Pierre Parish in Grand Bois and the clinic’s doctor. Msgr. Feeney also planned to attend the Oct. 11 event in Davenport, but had been struggling with deteriorating health. He died Oct. 6, the day before the Haitian contingent arrived.
“That was pretty providential. Msgr. Leo passed just in time for them to be at the altar for his funeral,” McDermott said.
She has learned that the clinic sustained some damage, but not to the extent that Port-au-Prince experienced. “Things are OK at the clinic. They’re treating patients outside the clinic. We’re not allowing them inside until we assess the damage,” said McDermott, who was planning to work at the clinic Feb. 8-15 with a group of about eight Iowans from various parishes. Those plans are on hold now.
Even if the team could get to Haiti, they would have difficulty getting to the clinic. One road they traveled has “literally fallen off the side of the mountain,” she said. And the road between Port-au-Prince and Grand Bois is nothing but rocks.
That’s why she’s grateful volunteers are already in place in Haiti. “In the midst of the devastation, thank God there are groups on the ground who are doing what they can do.”
The Diocese of Davenport is asking all parishes to announce this weekend (Jan. 16-17) that a second collection will be taken up at all Masses the following weekend (Jan. 23-24). All monies collected are to be sent by one check to the diocese: Attention Haiti Relief. Those funds will be sent to Catholic Relief Services for the aid of the earthquake victims in Haiti.