It has been almost a year since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti. Within hours of the quake, news services were bringing us horrible pictures of the suffering Haitians. One of the poorest nations in the world now has another cross to carry.
From the beginning, generous people from around the world opened their hearts to give gifts of money and supplies to help with the immediate survival of the people. These gifts were deeply appreciated by the Haitians as they struggled to survive from day to day.
I was watching a news story about Haiti and a relief worker was commenting on the generosity of people from around the world. At the end of her comments she asked the question, “Where will help come from six months from now?” This began to work on me since I was one of those who usually made a one-time contribution to disaster relief.
A friend told me about a Passionist priest, Father Rick Frechette, who went to Haiti early in his ministry. He learned firsthand about the shortage of medical help available to the poor so he was allowed to go to medical school and become a doctor. He returned to Haiti and started a free children’s hospital, St. Damien’s.
The fact that Fr. Frechette was a Passionist attracted me to the project. In the mid 1940s my home parish in Knoxville was experiencing a lot of growth due to the presence of the Veteran’s Hospital, which was getting a large number of World War II patients suffering from mental illness. New doctors, nurses and attendants were being hired and many of them were Catholic. Our church was very small and we needed more Masses to accommodate the larger Catholic population. Since we had two mission parishes, the pastor needed help which he got from the Passionist Fathers in Des Moines. I have always felt a closeness to these good priests.
I knew that I wanted to do something long term for the Haitian people, but I didn’t know quite what it was. My charitable giving was stretched past the 10 percent mark so I had to find something income-producing to raise the money. I like to cook and bake so I decided to bake chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies and give $1 per dozen to St. Damien’s. Then I added bread, white or whole wheat, then pies and now egg noodles. The list keeps growing!
I sell my products after Mass on Saturday and from my house. I always tell new customers about St. Damien’s and its work. The response has been great. I am able to send more than $100 per month to the Passionist Fathers for St. Damien’s.
I know that in the big picture my $100 isn’t much, but combined with the donations of hundreds of other people marvelous things are happening through the ministry of Fr. Frechette and his staff.