By Tony DeGol
Russell Miller wanted an experience that broke the boundaries of what he considered Church to be.
His involvement with the Hands and Hearts Haiti Ministry – and particularly his two trips to the island nation – has more than delivered.
The ministry, sponsored by the Carmelite Community of the Word – a diocesan community of religious sisters, welcomes the faithful to be part of an enduring relationship between the CCW and the Little Sisters of the Incarnation in Haiti.
The Carmelite sisters, with loving help from throughout the diocese, annually collect a slew of basic items to send via sea container to Haiti in the fall. A delegation typically travels to Haiti in January.
Miller’s two trips were eye-opening.
“When I went there, I was not really prepared for how desperate this country is in terms of poverty, in terms of the unrest that happens,” he recalled.
During a recent tea and basket auction to support the ministry, Miller could not help but become a little emotional when Sister Marilyn Welch, CCW, Administrator General of the community, gave the crowd a somber update on the current situation in Haiti.
“They are suffering, my brothers and sisters are suffering,” Miller explained. “So that connection breaks down the boundaries of a parish. It breaks down the boundaries of a diocese. We are the universal Church.”
According to Sister Marilyn, the situation is being described as worse than Haitians have ever experienced.
“They are starving, there is not enough food, there’s no fuel, therefore there’s very little electricity,” she relayed. “It just is not a good situation at all.”
Because of the recent turmoil in Haiti, Sister announced that the annual sea container filled with supplies collected over the past year, did not go in October as usual.
“We were warned that if we shipped it, it would not get there, and if it did get there, it would not go to the people it was intended for because of the high rate of violence and the political unrest that exists right now,” she stated.
As soon as the CCW receives the go-ahead to ship the container, they plan to do so. The January trip to Haiti is also on hold.
“All I know is that we need to keep supporting our Little Brothers and Sisters and the people they minister to in our prayers, in our thoughts, and what you’re doing today is helping us to support them by coming together for this tea,” Sister Marilyn encouraged.
The inaugural gathering, indeed, drew a huge and enthusiastic crowd that not only enjoyed tea, but wonderful platters of delicious finger food. Guests also had the opportunity to take chances on dozens of baskets filled with goodies.
“To see a turnout at something like this be so spectacular is amazing,” remarked Miller, a member of Saint Augustine Parish in Dysart.
Prayers are critical in supporting the Hands and Hearts Haiti Ministry, he added, but so is the money raised at events such as the tea.
“Even though I can’t physically be there right now, I still feel a very strong connection by being able to help raise funds because I know it goes for a very good cause,” Miller stressed.
[Photo: Dylan Miller, a member of Saint Patrick Parish in Newry, serves tea to Amy Gresh (left), a parishioner of Holy Family in Colver, and Mary Ann Shoemaker, a member of Saint Benedict Parish in Carrolltown.]