So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
The three-week trip was a real eye-opener for the French 16-year-old and her mother: “There is no electricity, so no computers, TV, fridge, or hot water,” wrote Kate Palthey of her recent humanitarian trip. “There were no police, no post office, no stores, no fireman, no ambulances.”
The place is St. Pious X School in Ducis, a small town in the mountains of Haiti, approximately 100 miles and a four-hour drive from Port-au-Prince.
Poverty takes on a whole new meaning in this small community, where a balanced diet is almost nonexistent and the water is unsafe to drink.
Medical care is nearly the same, as cholera runs rampant.
For the Reverend Jean-Marie “Fritz” Ligonde, the St. Finbarr Parish’s Church administrator, it was his everyday life. Known as Fr. Fritz, the reverend grew up in Ducis and as a child attended the school run by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.
Hearing of the school’s needs first-hand from Ligonde, the St. Finbarr’s Council of Catholic Women adopted the school and launched the Mission of Love campaign two years ago.
Nancy Ryan introduced the name and, along with Barb McCarthy, the two co-chair the campaign.
The parish got right to work raising money, as the school’s roof was in need of repair and suffered even more damage after the January 2010 earthquake. The interior rooms were badly damaged, as well.
The plumbing was primitive and bathrooms were outhouses; school supplies were scant and often the only nourishment the children ate was provided at the school.
Quickly, a $1,000 was sent to the school, and an even higher goal of $7,000 was set to repair the school’s roof. However, parishioners exceeded their expectations and in the spring of last year, Ligonde hand-delivered a check for $11,000 to the school.
Due to the cholera epidemic, the government mandated the school update its bathroom facilities. The school used money that was leftover from the roof repair to improve the plumbing.
Enthusiasm for the project grew and soon there was a French connection.
“My granddaughter who lives in France was looking for a humanitarian project,” explained McCarthy. Arrangements were made and McCarthy’s daughter Kate and granddaughter Alexandra Palthey, from Grasse, France went to Haiti last spring with Ligonde. He accompanied the women to the school where he presented the check to the Sisters.
Alex taught French and watercolors and Kate worked with the Sisters to assess the school’s needs.
“As French speakers they found out exactly what was needed,” said McCarthy, whose granddaughter continues to raise funds in France.
“Alex had never seen such poverty; she cried,” added McCarthy.
Laundry is washed by hand and ironed with an iron filled with hot coals. At the small first aid clinic attached to the school, Kate and Alex saw lacerated feet, cholera victims and vaccinations being administered.
While they were there, the sisters saved five people from cholera.
“The children are very happy, as they know nothing else,” wrote Palthey in her report. “They were welcoming, sweet and curious. They wear school uniforms and take great pride in their clothing and hair, lots of braids, ribbons and colourful (sic) barrettes. On Sundays, they donned their best, a lace dress for the girls and a white dress shirt for the boys and shiny shoes.”
The women slept in the convent and at the time they did not know that they had displaced the nuns who slept in the hall.
They shared the simple meals with the students of beans, rice, pasta or vegetable soup, often prepared without meat. Sometimes due to the lack of proper food the students are too tired to learn.
With the roof repaired and the plumbing improved, the campaign plans to raise money for supplemental meat and a library. One dollar a week will give a child a daily portion of meat.
On Dec. 3 and 4 the Mission of Love held a craft fair to kick off the fundraising campaign. There were and hand-sewn nightgowns, napkins and tablecloths from the Sisters in Haiti, as well as crafts, made by parishioners.
“More needs to be done,” said McCarthy. “One hundred percent of every dollar goes to the school.” This year’s goal is $5,000.
For information call McCarthy at 642-4240.
Kathleen Tuttle, a Marco Island resident since 1987, has written articles for various non-profits for more than 25 years. She is a community volunteer, former science teacher and microbiologist. Kathleen can be contacted at email@example.com.
New Life Community Church of God
Christmas Dinner Theater, 7 p.m., Saturday, to benefit St. Matthew’s House in Naples. Tickets are $30 each and include the five-star buffet, Christmas skits and music. For tickets call the church office.
Jewish Congregation of Marco Island
The synagogue will present a premier event of the award-winning documentary film “100 Voices: A Journey Home” 2 p.m., Sunday. The film chronicles the musical voyage of 100 cantors as they return to Poland to rediscover Poland’s lost pre-World War Jewish culture and to reconcile with the Polish people. They perform a series of concerts with the Polish National Opera Chorus and a 100-piece orchestra. Free; seating is limited, tickets are required. Contact the synagogue office for tickets.
The third annual Marco Island community Chanukah celebration 5:45 p.m., Dec. 21. There will be a candle-lighting ceremony, Chanukah music featuring Klezmer clarinetist Dr. Martin Cohn and light refreshments served.
Keeping Christ in Christmas
The Historical Church, located on the property of the Marco Island Cemetery, will host a series of Christ-centered interdenominational events as follows:
n Sunday: Christmas Island Style Faithful Founders event includes a traditional carol sing-a-long, soloists, choirs, and some toe tapping contemporary rock featuring a number called “The Cradle That Rocked The World.” Many churches will be represented as well as members of Leadership Marco and the Marco Island Historical Society. Steve Stefanides will be emcee for the evening. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Free hot cider.
n Dec. 23: Light of the World Luminaries around the lake, music, prayer and a live Nativity
All events begin at 6 p.m. For information call the New Life Office or LeCroy-Lansdown at 250-5147.
Marco Presbyterian Church
Family Christmas program entitled “Through the Eyes of a Child” 6 p.m., Sunday. The evening combines children, youth, PowerPoint, humor, drama, music and the Nativity. The service will be followed by a hot cocoa and cookie reception. Free.
The church’s 6:30 p.m., Prayer and Bible Study, will gather on Dec. 21 at the Historical Church to sing Christmas carols. The Historical Church is located on the Marco Island Cemetery property. All are invited.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
The Eighth Annual Advent Concert on Sunday will feature the Bach Ensemble Troubadours singing familiar carols and popular holiday favorites. The doors open at 6 p.m. with an appetizer and wine reception and raffle in the Parish Hall. Tickets are $25. Proceeds to benefit the Philippine Leper Colony. For information and tickets (limited seating), call the church office.