Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

Hope Week

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a group of young people, all displaced from Haiti following last year’s devastating earthquake, who are now students and parishioners from Saints Joachim and Anne parish in Queens Village.  The students were taking part in Hope Week, a marvelous program sponsored by the New York Yankees.  The students, and their parents or guardians, were joined by a wonderful young priest from their parish, Father Jean M. Delva, and six members of the Yankees, players C.C. Sabathia, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Freddie Garcia, and coaches Tony Pena and Mike Harkey.

The Yankees had hosted the children at yesterday’s game, and then they all boarded a double- decker bus to visit the Empire State Building and Times Square, before coming for a visit to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  Monsignor Ritchie, the Cathedral Rector, provided a history of the Cathedral, and told them the story of Pierre Toussaint, a former slave from Haiti, who was brought to New York and is now a candidate for sainthood!   The young people visited Toussaint’s resting place in the crypt beneath the Cathedral’s high altar, lit a candle at the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and then joined me in my residence for some ice cream cake and cookies!

It was a wonderful evening, and I was pleased that Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – such a vital part of the City of New York – was able to join together with the Yankees in doing something special for these young men and women.  I was just as proud that a Catholic parish, Saints Joachim and Anne in the Diocese of Brooklyn, is having such a positive impact on the lives of these young people, victims of a terrible tragedy, who are being given the opportunity for a wonderful education.

Here are some pictures from last night!

Welcoming Derek Jeter to the Cathedral

With Msgr. Ritchie and Bishop Sullivan as we tell the history of St. Patrick's Cathedral

Lighting candles with the students at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Celebrating Hope Week

With Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and C.C. Sabathia

Lino Rulli and Ryan Grant of The Catholic Guy show of Sirius/XM interview Derek Jeter

Photos by Joseph Zwilling

Catholics On the Ground in Japan

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

No surprise at all:  as international relief began to arrive in fractured Japan after the awful earthquake and tsunami, among the first were Catholic agencies.

As I said, no surprise:  religious communities provide the most massive private (non-governmental) relief and care in the world, and first among the world’s communities of faith is the Catholic Church.

I know, Jesus, our founder, told us not to “blow a trumpet” when we give alms, an imperative we heed particularly during this Lenten season.  So, I hope He forgives me for this violation!

But, I’m really not doing it as an act of pride, but as an act of gratitude for our wonderfully generous Catholic people who rise to the occasion whenever there’s an international need, like the one now in Japan, and as a word of encouragement to those splendid Catholic relief agencies that so effectively bring our aid to those most in need.

Those grand folks involved in worldwide humanitarian efforts, and even government officials, tell me that the Catholic Church gets an A+ in effectively reaching out to the stricken.

Why?  For one, in most cases, the Church is already there! We don’t have to parachute workers and caregivers into a racked country, because the faithful are in place.  Parishes, schools, religious orders, shelters, clinics, orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens — already up and running.  These faithful Catholics know where the need is and hardly need directions to bring it to those hurting, because they live there.

That was true, for instance, in Haiti.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS), already had 300 people working fulltime in Haiti when the vicious earthquake struck, and they had been there for six-decades!  No wonder they’re pros at getting food, medicine, shelter, service workers, and clean water to the distressed areas.

Even in a “non-Catholic” country like Japan, the Church is still already “on the ground,” as our Catholic education, charity, and healthcare is worldwide, not just in countries where there is a large Catholic population.  After all, as the old saying goes, we don’t help people because they’re Catholic, but because we are.

A second reason why the Church has such a golden track record on international relief is because people of faith have a good reputation for honesty, integrity, zeal, thrift, and hard work.  Yes, I admit, there are ugly counter-examples to this, but, the exceptions prove the rule.

But, who choreographs all of this massive, worldwide relief effort by the Church?  Well, in most cases, it is locally run and operated — which, by the way, is a third reason why the Church shines in this area, since we are hardly handcuffed by some big, distant bureaucracy — because a fundamental principle of Catholic social justice is that of subsidiarity, that the closer you are to the people on the ground, the more effective you usually are.

So, once again to use CRS as an example, they hardly rely on a big overstructure, but get the aid to bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, and lay pastoral leaders already in the rubble.

However, some coordination, however unobtrusive, is helpful.  And that comes, as you might expect, from Rome, where the earthly pastor of the Church Universal, our Holy Father, the Pope, shows a deep, daily solicitude for the suffering of the world, and is in a strategic position to assist, given his constant meetings with bishops, religious superiors, world leaders, his own ambassadors in 190 countries of the world (called the Nuncio), and the faithful from the earth’s troubled spots.

The agency of the Holy See — the Holy Father’s government of the Church Universal — which offers some direction, guidance, and encouragement to worldwide almsgiving of the Successor of St. Peter is called Cor Unum (“One Heart”) beautifully referring to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose heart beats within His Church, especially with love and mercy for those suffering.

The President of this Pontifical Council Cor Unum is Cardinal Robert Sarah.  One of the agencies with which he closely works in Rome is called Caritas Internationalis (“International Charity”), which is a federation of Catholic agencies throughout the world dedicated to relief.

Both Cor Unum and Caritas Internationalis are highly respected.  Recently, the Holy See expressed a very laudable and understandable desire to intensify cooperation, and to strengthen the Catholic identity of Caritas as a visible, unambiguously Catholic worldwide relief work.

This seems natural, given Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (“God is love”), which dramatically placed charity, along with teaching and the sacraments, as one of the Church’s three principal ministries.

Lent is a providential time to thank God for the heroic charity and generosity of the Church, and to affirm our conviction that our international relief is so effective precisely because it is inspired by Jesus, flows through and from His Church, and is as close to the Heart of Christ and His vicar on earth, the Pope, as possible.

Keep up the good work, Cor Unum, and Caritas Internationalis!

To Whom Shall We Go?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Written 17 years ago by one of my predecessors, John Cardinal O’Connor, this column reminded us then what we must remember now — Haiti needs our help and prayers.  As the Cardinal said, Pierre Toussaint (now declared “Venerable” — another step on the road to possible beatification and canonization) is the “perfect mediator” for “those looking for peace in Haiti.”

In the Cathedral Crypt, A Prayer for Haiti

John Cardinal O’Connor, Catholic New York

October 21, 1993

It’s time to take Pierre Toussaint seriously. The situation in Haiti is a mess. The relationship between Haiti and the United States is a mess. The potential for massive violence is horrifying.

Meanwhile, the skeleton of a man of peace lies beneath the high altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I pass his crypt each morning as I enter the sanctuary to offer the 7:30 Mass. These days I pray for his intercession for the land where he was born into slavery, the land that has known little but oppression, starvation, occupation, terrorism, war, for generation after generation. The dominant, often the only hope, for the poor has been by way of their parish churches, their Masses, the efforts of their priests and bishops and, religious sisters and brothers and others who care enough about them to teach them to read and write, to know and to love God, to try to be happy in a way the world knows little about…

…Becoming wealthy by the standards of the day, even when technically in bondage, he tramped the streets constantly to feed the hungry, spent himself night after night to visit the sick. Every day for 60 years he trudged to Mass in Old St. Patrick’s Church, passed by wealthy Catholics in their carriages who refused to pick him up because he was black, however bitter the weather. Time after time he was insulted, was refused a seat in the church he had rebuilt after a fire. Yet he went on, doing good, doing endless good.

Yellow fever was common to New Yorkers of the day. Whenever it struck, those who could leave left in panic. Not Pierre. He would search fearlessly through the quarantined areas, seeking in house after house for the abandoned, taking the sick into his own home to nurse them.

Legions of slaves purchased their freedom from this man who felt so free interiorly that he seemed indifferent to his own state of technical bondage. Children black and white received an education they could not have dreamed of except for the generosity of Toussaint. Those orphaned by successive plagues found a home built for them by Pierre.

Was this an Uncle Tom, to be scorned by those who believe he should have been a militant against slavery? What nonsense. If ever a man was truly free, it was Pierre Toussaint. He respected activists. He did not believe their way should be his way, and if ever a man did things his way, it was Pierre Toussaint. If ever a man was a saint, in my judgment, it was Pierre Toussaint.

It is not Pierre Toussaint the slave or the freedman whose help I ask for Haiti as I pass his remains each morning, but the Pierre Toussaint who seems to me to have been as saintly a saint as the Church has ever canonized, albeit he still awaits the formal title that I cannot convey on him. Validation of a miracle is still being sought, and conditions in Haiti have not made the search easy. But no one can read this man’s life—and the records are thoroughly authentic—without being awed by his holiness.

What has really worked in Haiti? Who really knows what will work now? With hundreds of thousands of lives at stake the great powers of the world seem paralyzed. I watch the debates on television. I listen to equally sincere members of the Congress share mutually exclusive ideas about what action should be taken. I respect both their intentions and the complexity of their task. But meanwhile, the remains of a man of peace lie serenely in a crypt beneath the altar of sacrifice in the Cathedral of St. Patrick. If his soul is where I believe it must be, he’s a “natural” for those sincerely looking for peace in Haiti, the perfect mediator.

Haiti Update

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

As you may know, in addition to serving as Archbishop of New York, I am also the Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services.  In that role, I joined last week with the Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Latin America, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, in updating our brother bishops on the on-going situation in Haiti.  I thought you might also be interested in knowing where things stand, and  the plans for the future.  Our letter is attached.

A blessed Holy Week.

Click here to view the letter.

A Prayer After the Earthquake in Haiti

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

This is a special prayer for the people of Haiti. I invite everyone to pray to the Lord for the victims of the devastating earthquake.

A Prayer After the Earthquake in Haiti

Lord, at times such as this, when we realize that the ground beneath our feet is not as solid as we had imagined, we plead for your mercy.

As the things we have built crumble about us, we know too well how small we truly are on this ever-changing, ever-moving, fragile planet we call home. Yet you have promised never to forget us. Do not forget us now.

Today, so many people are afraid. They wait in fear of the next tremor. They hear the cries of the injured amid the rubble. They roam the streets in shock at what they see. And they fill the dusty air with wails of grief and the names of missing dead.

Comfort them, Lord, in this disaster. Be their rock when the earth refuses to stand still, and shelter them under your wings when homes no longer exist.

Embrace in your arms those who died so suddenly this day. Console the hearts of those who mourn, and ease the pain of bodies on the brink of death.

Pierce, too, our hearts with compassion, we who watch from afar, as the poorest on this side of the earth find only misery upon misery. Move us to act swiftly this day, to give generously every day, to work for justice always, and to pray unceasingly for those without hope.

And once the shaking has ceased, the images of destruction have stopped filling the news, and our thoughts return to life’s daily rumblings, let us not forget that we are all your children and they, our brothers and sisters. We are all the work of your hands.

For though the mountains leave their place and the hills be tossed to the ground, your love shall never leave us, and your promise of peace will never be shaken.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever.

We ask the intercession of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Patroness of Haiti, as we make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

A Generous Response

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

The stories and images of the tragic events in Haiti continue to move us, as we learn of the devastation of the earthquake, the loss of life, the huge number of people who are hurt, hungry, and homeless.  Thank God, there has been a tremendous response from all over the world, particularly here in the United States, as people step forward to help in whatever way that they can.  Catholic Relief Services, the Red Cross, and so many other aid agencies are already hard at work in Haiti, and they will need our ongoing support as they begin the long and difficult process of helping the people of Haiti to rebuild their lives.

Catholic parishes all across the country are taking up a special collection, and the money raised will go directly to Catholic Relief Services.  As Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, I am so grateful for the generous response of our people.  I would like to offer a special word of deep gratitude to the New York Yankees, who have donated $225,000 to CRS for their Haitian relief efforts, part of an overall donation of $500,000 that the Yankees are making for this cause.   If you would like more information on the work being done by CRS, please visit

Please keep in your prayers the people of Haiti and those who are working so hard to bring them aid and comfort.

The Tragedy in Haiti

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I have been in Rome for the past week for ceremonies and meetings related to the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Pontifical North American College, where I was both a student and Rector.  The news of the horrific earthquake in Haiti has shocked and saddened everyone.  The Holy Father today offered the following words this morning during his weekly audience. 

“My thoughts go in particular to the population hit just a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake which has caused serious loss of human life, large numbers of homeless and missing people, and vast material damage.

  “I invite everyone to join my prayers to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss. I give assurances of my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to everyone who, in various ways, has been affected by this terrible calamity, imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering.

“I appeal to the generosity of all people so that these, our brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering, may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community. The Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population”.

I have asked Bishop Dennis Sullivan, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, to send a letter to all priests of the Archdiocese asking that they lead their people in prayer this weekend in a special way for the people of Haiti, and for the Haitian community in New York who may have lost loved ones during the earthquake.  There will also be a special collection at all Masses this weekend, and the money raised will be sent to Catholic Relief Services for the relief of the suffering in Haiti.  Catholic Relief Services has been first on the scene, and has already been providing assistance wherever it can.

As followers of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, we are called to respond whenever there are people in need.  However, I believe many of us feel a special urgency today, given the tremendous devastation that has occurred, as well as the large Catholic population in Haiti and the large Haitian community here in New York as well. 

I met today with Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes, President of Cor Unum, the Holy Father’s charitable outreach agency, and with the Haitian Ambassador to the Holy See.  I assured them both of the prayers of the people of the Archdiocese and told them that the Archdiocese would make every effort to be of financial assistance as well. 

We are very blessed here in New York to sponsor the cause for canonization of Venerable Pierre Toussaint.   Pierre Toussaint who was born in Haiti in 1766 before being brought to New York as a slave. He eventually became a free man, and would have been a rich man had he not given most of his money away.   Toussaint was known for his tremendous acts of charity and his deep faith.  I hope that many people will join me in saying a special prayer to Venerable Pierre Toussaint asking for his intercession with Our Heavenly Father for the safety, support, and comfort of the people of Haiti at this time.

UPDATE:  Catholic News Service did a video interview with me Wednesday evening.  They’ve posted it online here.