By Anne Marie Amacher
BETTENDORF — Father Jean Solomon of Haiti flew into the Quad-City area to personally thank the parishioners of St. John Vianney Parish for their support of his Haitian parish.
Fr. Solomon, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Jean Denis, attended all weekend Masses at the Bettendorf parish where he recited the Eucharistic Prayer in French and gave a talk to parishioners in Creole. His talk was interpreted by St. John Vianney parishioner Dimy Doresca, a native of Haiti.
“My heart is filled with emotion,” Fr. Solomon said through the interpreter, “because I have wanted to come and see you and to get to know you for some time.”
He said the people of Haiti believe that if you don’t have bad things happen, then there can’t always be good. “Something good happens every day despite all we have been through.”
St. John Vianney has been helping the parish in Jean Denis since September. In late December the Bettendorf parish sent $20,000 to the Haitian parish so a dry and secure storage unit could be built to store food for the parish school.
“We are a remote village with no electricity, no drinking water, no hospital and no toilets. Before the (January 2010) earthquake our population was 42,000 people.” Since the earthquake it has risen to around 45,000 people. That is because of the destruction in Port-au-Prince and people relocating outside that area.
Agriculture is the main source of income. But the earthquake and hurricanes that followed destroyed the rice harvest. “We had nothing left.”
But Fr. Solomon said the people of Jean Denis have persevered. “They believe in God and should not be discouraged. You are serving God. Thanks to you, the people of Jean Denis feel hope.”
St. John Vianney provided funds to build the food storage facility; the United Nations provided a grant to obtain food. The more than 500 students at the school now have at least one hot meal per day.
Many students walk two to three hours to get to school, Fr. Solomon noted. Until the hot meal became available, most students arrived at school hungry and left hungry.
“In this solidarity of St. John Vianney and Jean Denis, you give hope to the entire community. We thank you a lot. They love you and pray for you a lot.
“I come here with a special message. Don’t forget us and don’t forget your prayers for us. That is most important. The people of Jean Denis wish for you to pray for us and for the people of Haiti. We ask you to remember us at Mass and to remember us in everything you do. With prayers — everything can happen. Thank you for your support.”
Fr. Solomon greeted people after the Masses and also met with Bishop Martin Amos on March 19. “It was a very nice meeting,” he said through Doresca.