By Anne Marie Amacher
Father Ron Legerme, a Haitian priest who served at St. Mary Parish in Albia for four months and Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington for a year, has been in correspondence with staff at the Albia parish about what is going on in his home country.
Fr. Legerme, who is currently serving as pastor of St. Raymond de Pennafort Parish in Montreal, Canada, has kept in contact via e-mail with Albia staffers and parishioners from both parishes since he left.
In an e-mail Jan. 13 to Jackie Maddy, pastoral associate and director of religious education for St. Mary Parish, Fr. Legerme said he and family members had been trying to contact family in Haiti. The whereabouts of one brother was of particular concern.
“One of my brothers called him one hour before the tragedy, but after that we don’t have any clue where he can be.
The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, my teacher at seminary, and also a good friend passed away, and a lot of seminarians, too. Many churches and religious houses failed, and a lot of religious are missing. But nobody can confirm exactly, because the communications are so bad … So, I hope and pray, because it’s so terrible a situation. Thank you for your support and prayers.”
Fr. Legerme noted he had spoken to the bishop in his home Diocese of Les Cayes. The bishop said no one slept the night the earthquake hit. Dozens of aftershocks had occurred.
In an e-mail dated Jan. 15, Fr. Legerme was happy to report family had gotten in touch with his brother by text message. His brother felt his life had been saved by a miracle, but noted his wife’s sister had died.
“In a few seconds, they opened the door, and the house with three floors was destroyed,” the brother recounted. His wife’s sister had died “at the first step of the house.”
The brother’s wife was in critical condition after being found several days after the quake. “My brother found something to sew her wounds.”
On Jan. 14 Fr. Legerme spoke to his bishop by Internet. The bishop reported the hospital in Les Cayes was full of people suffering. The area was in desperate need of doctors, nurses and medicine. “But the help remains only in Port-au-Prince.” Many people are suffering and “leaving the life slowly … It’s so hard to hear something like this,” the priest said. The bishop was desperate for help to come to Les Cayes, Miragoâne and Jacmel — all on the south side of the country. “So, I am trying to help in my way and my prayers,” Fr. Legerme said.
Sharon Crall, RCIA coordinator for St. Mary Parish, e-mailed Fr. Legerme that she shared his e-mail information to the parish with a coffee group after Mass and that prayers were being said.
Maddy said Fr. Legerme came to the Diocese of Davenport as a missionary and had spoken at St. Mary Parish in Albia in the early 2000s. “We connected with him,” she said.
Fr. Legerme came to Albia in the spring of 2007 and helped at the Albia parish. After his faculties were established to serve in the Diocese of Davenport, he was transferred to Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington for a year. He was scheduled to return to Haiti, but couldn’t because of safety concerns, Maddy said. Now he celebrates Mass in English, French and Italian in Canada.
The Albia parish raises money and sends items for the Diocese of Les Cayes to Fr. Legerme’s sister in New York. There family or friends carry the items or money to Haiti during visits to their native home. “He always thanks us for our contributions and we place his letters in our bulletin,” Maddy said. “We lost a treasure when Fr. Ron left,” she said. “But he is safe and has food on the table.”