Local parish celebrates Haitian Awareness Weekend

March 14, 2004|by TARA REILLY

Haitian choirs from two Washington, D.C.-area churches celebrated mass Saturday at Saint Ann Catholic Church as part of the parish's "Haitian Awareness Weekend."

The choirs, from Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Sorrows, swayed from side to side as they sang church hymns in Creole.

"It's important to see ... the joy of the Haitian faith," said Agnes Supernavage, who helped organize the weekend. "They're very joyful people."


Saint Ann Catholic Church held the event to teach its parishioners about Haiti and the connection between the church and its sister parish, Sainte Claire in Dessalines, Haiti, according to a written statement.

The Rev. Thomas T. Polk, pastor of Saint Ann, told churchgoers that the relationship with Sainte Claire began in 1999, after parishioners of Saint Ann traveled to Haiti through trips sponsored by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"It was a life-changing experience for the both of them," Polk said.

Polk said the parishioners saw that the Haitians had "joyful faces" despite living in poverty.

Haitians in the rural area surrounding Sainte Claire travel by foot, donkey or bicycle; have dirty or no running water and are malnourished. One in five Haitian children die before their fifth birthday, Polk said.

"Most Haitian families live in houses so small that there is not enough floor space for everyone, and they have to sleep in shifts," Polk said.

Saint Ann parishioners, through contributions, are able to help pay for Sainte Claire to feed daily meals to its students at its six parish schools, the salaries of its teachers and for renovations to the church and schools, he said.

"One dollar will pay for one meal per day for a child in school for a week, probably the only meal that she gets," Polk said.

Supernavage, who was one of the parishioners who traveled to Haiti, said the event was a good opportunity to "renew and expand our partnership with Haiti."

Supernavage said the weekend was planned before the recent violent clashes in Haiti began and before the overthrow of the Haitian government.

"We pray for the people of Haiti," Polk said. "We pray that peace will come to that land - an everlasting peace."

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