The following is an update from the Haiti Committee of St. Francis Xavier Basilica, part of the Spires of Faith Cluster, in Dyersville.
Visiting our sister parish in Fond Verrettes, Haiti in February 2013, the St. Francis Xavier Haiti Team from Dyersville was told that Sister Evena was leaving Fond Verrettes after 17 years of staffing a small medical clinic for the people of the area. Sister delivered babies, and held weekly clinics for expectant mothers, new mothers and babies. She distributed food to help counteract malnutrition which is a major health issue in Haiti.
In her small clinic, with a limited supply of medications, Sister cared for patients seven days a week. She was their Mother Teresa. Our Xavier Parish was very concerned about how the departure of Sister Evena would impact the health of the people.
Seeing a great medical need
In July 2013, a medical team, organized through St. Jude’s Parish in Cedar Rapids held a three-day clinic in Fond Verrettes. The severity of the illnesses they saw those three days was shocking. Their leader, Tony Bedard, reported that in his many years of taking medical teams to El Salvador, he had never encountered so many extremely ill patients. Then in February 2014 Xavier’s Haiti Team held an eye clinic during their week’s visit and also witnessed the dire need for medical treatment for hundreds. Returning to Iowa, the 12 team members from the Spires of Faith Cluster wrote their personal reflections on the trip.
Given the report from Tony and hearing what our team encountered in their visit, gave the Xavier Haiti Committee the determination to make a new clinic a reality. We knew we had to try and when our parishioners read the reflections team members shared, their hearts were touched and donations began to pour in even before there were organized efforts at raising money.
Creative ways of raising funds
A Care and Share collection in September 2013 served as a good jump start when it netted $4,533. Our fundraising continued with Deacon Jim Steger from our cluster running in the Des Moines Marathon in October 2013. That marathon raised $17,000 which was a fantastic start.
Then in January 2014 the archdiocese offered the Harvest of Blessings Matching Funds Grant. St. Francis Xavier wrote their request for medical supplies and medications for the clinic and St. Joseph’s in Earlville wrote theirs for equipment for the clinic. Both parishes received the $500 matching grant. With matching funds, that gave our cluster another $2,000. The next big boost came when our pastor, Father Dennis Quint, suggested that the Spires of Faith Cluster Parishes choose the clinic as their Lenten almsgiving project.
What began as 1,700 empty milk cartoons donated by Prairie Farms Dairy in Dubuque, ended with members of the five parishes filling those cartons with money to the tune of over $26,000 by the time Easter arrived.
The final effort was on May 31, 2014, when our committee sponsored the first Annual 5K Run 4 Haiti Medical Clinic. There were 112 people registered and the profits, including donations, totaled $4,528. All of these dollars along with a few other significant contributions, meant our dream of a medical clinic was becoming a reality!
With help from the Harvest of Blessing Grant, an exam bed, a baby crib, and 12 boxes of supplies for the clinic were sent to our sister parish on the Parish Twinning Sea Container in March. Medications will be taken to the clinic by four parishioners when they attend the dedication of St. Clare Center of Holy Cross Parish on Sept. 14, 2014, which is the feast of the Holy Cross, our parish’s feast day. Plans are to purchase, in Haiti, a generator, a locked medicine cabinet, and other equipment for the new clinic. Those grant dollars, combined with the generosity of our cluster parishioners who gave their financial support to the marathon, the 5K run, and the Lenten milk carton project helped us reach an unbelievable total of $60,000. God is good!
With the clinic now established, the next hurdle we faced was that of finding qualified personnel to staff it. Fortunately, Father Lubermann, the pastor at Holy Cross, knew of two Haitian nurses from the area who have their nursing certificates and are willing to share the nursing responsibilities on a 24/7 basis. They will be ready to start following the dedication in September. Two houseboys will help with the labor details and provide security for the nurse on duty. Plans are to hire a doctor and a dentist to hold clinics there 2-3 days each month also.
An ongoing connection
We have felt God’s helping hand and the overwhelming generosity of the five parishes in our Spires of Faith Cluster in this challenging endeavor. Father Lubermann and the people he serves at several parishes are so excited and see a more hopeful future now that medical care will be available. Just hours before writing this article, we received word that a young pregnant mother and her baby both died as Father was trying to get them to a clinic hours away for help with a difficult delivery. We are hoping that with the new clinic, no other mother and baby will have to die because of lack of medical care. Together we can make a difference!! Merci! Merci! Merci!