An American deacon in Haiti: outhouses, basins and a baptism in Creole

An American deacon in Haiti: outhouses, basins and a baptism in Creole July 5, 2018

Here’s a glimpse at how some deacons serve. Deacon Mike Whitters shares some of his experience ministering in Haiti as part of his parish’s “Twinning Program.” This appeared in The Witness, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Dubuque:

As part of the sister parish program of the Catholic Church, we have been serving in Haiti at our sister parish of Our Lady of Assumption in the region of Anse Rouge.

[My wife] Pam actually attended the first sister parish visit to Anse Rouge in 2005 along with five other parishioners and Father Beckman from our Holy Family Cluster. The church proper was built of cement walls and a metal roof with no running water, so the team members used the outhouses and washed in basins.

Theresa Patterson, the director of the Parish Twinning Program, accompanied us and said it was the poorest parish she had ever seen with subsistent living conditions. Anse Rouge is in a very dry portion of Haiti, so the vegetation is cactus and bramble and the main industry is mining salt from the ocean.

The city of Anse Rouge has no running water, and electricity comes over the mountains for one or two hours a day to those who can afford it, of which most can’t. The houses in the city are built from blocks of cement and leftover tin, while the houses outside the city are built of wood with thatched roofs.

Father Dorcet, the local pastor, asked if our parish would be able to help them build a school, as local children could not attend school unless their parents could afford it. The Holy Family Cluster raised over $125,000, and a school was built ­locally and also in surrounding villages.

In June of 2010, at the request of the pastor, Father Dorlean, local medical providers and I began yearly medical mission trips to Our Lady of Assumption. We checked blood pressure, prescribed medications, treated the children for par­a­sites, provided vitamins, and treated many illnesses, of which many are rarely seen in America. Patients given Tylenol or Advil for arthritis were overjoyed and reacted like they were given a bag of gold. Hundreds of eyeglasses were fitted, and people stood up in Mass acclaiming how they could see again.

As a deacon, I assisted at daily and weekend Masses. Father Dorlean had to explain to the parishioners what a deacon was as they did not have any in that village. He explained deacons can be married (as Pam and I slept in the same room) and that I was also a doctor. I had the opportunity to baptize three children using Creole as the local language. I am sure they wondered what I was saying!

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