By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
DYERSVILLE — As part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Archdiocese of Dubuque has designated seven weeks throughout 2016 to be “work weeks,” in which parishes are asked to perform a service project specific to one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. The first work week begins Sunday, Jan. 17, and for it, the Spires of Faith Cluster has organized a service project that will give parishioners the opportunity to live out mercy as they “give drink to the thirsty” of Haiti.
The Spires of Faith Cluster is made up of five parishes in Delaware and Dubuque Counties: the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville; SS. Peter & Paul, Petersburg; St. Boniface, New Vienna; St. Joseph, Earlville; and St. Paul, Worthington.
The stewardship committee for the cluster met last year and came up with ways to engage parishioners throughout the Year of Mercy, creating service projects for each of 2016’s seven work weeks. During the “feed the hungry” week in April, for example, parishioners will be asked to bring nonperishable food items to Mass to support the local food pantry and to go toward a meal for the Catholic Worker House in Dubuque. In October, during the “visit the sick” week, parishioners will be encouraged to think of someone who is ill and visit that person in their home, the hospital or nursing home.
For the week in January that calls for aiding the thirsty, the stewardship committee decided to ask parishioners to donate money to help ensure access to clean water in Haiti. On the weekend of Jan. 16 and 17, parishioners can offer their gifts for this purpose in water buckets in each of the churches. The project seemed like a logical one for the cluster in light of its long-standing connection with a sister parish in Haiti.
In 1990, the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier joined St. Jude’s in Cedar Rapids in forming a sister parish relationship with Holy Cross Parish in Fond Verrettes, Haiti. Dyersville’s relationship with the Haitian parish was expanded to include the other parishes of the Spires of Faith Cluster when the cluster was formed in 2008.
The Spires of Faith Cluster has not only raised money in support of its sister parish and school in Haiti, but has also helped fund the opening of a medical clinic in the country in 2014. Each year, the cluster sends items such as school and medical supplies, soccer balls, infant clothing, shoes, even beds and examination tables to the community of Fond Verrettes. The cluster has also supported the implementation of a water purification system to ensure access to clean water for the people there.
A group of parishioners from the Spires of Faith also go on a service trip to their sister parish in Haiti annually. This year there will 13 members of the cluster making the trip from Jan. 27-Feb. 3. They will bring with them the money raised by the cluster for clean water during the Year of Mercy work week and will hand-deliver it to their sister parish and to Catholic Relief Services in Haiti.
Father Dennis Quint, one of the pastors of the Spires of Faith Cluster, visited their sister parish in the impoverished Caribbean nation in 2013. Of the trip, he said, “I felt it was important to make the journey firsthand to meet the people of our sister parish in Haiti and see the difference our relationship makes in their lives.”
The eye-opening trip impacted Father Quint greatly; he shared, “When I was there, I was struck by how much we take water for granted here (in the U.S.). We use water for drinking, for brushing our teeth, for bathing, and in so many other small ways without even thinking about it.” He said when he was there he was moved by the “sense of joy and appreciation on the faces of the people of Haiti” in response to the cluster’s efforts to provide them with access to clean water.
When Father Quint visited Haiti three years ago, he was accompanied by Mary “Cookie” Scherrman, a parishioner from Dyersville. Scherrman has played a pivotal role in building up the relationship between the Spires of Faith Cluster and Holy Cross Parish in Fond Verrettes. This year will be her 25th time making the trip to Haiti. She said visiting the people of the sister parish there each year “is like going to see family.”
“Making the trip to Haiti puts a face on poverty,” she said. “You see they’re real people. They’re not any different than we are. They love their family too. They have a powerful faith. You build a relationship with them and you love and respect them just the same as you do your friends back home.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” Scherrman said of the fact that the cluster is tying the first of the Year of Mercy’s service projects to the sister parish in Haiti. “With Haiti, we’re looking at the poorest country in our hemisphere,” she said, “but in reality, half the world lives like this, so anytime we as a cluster can do anything to help anybody, we should just do it.”
This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.