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Hagerstown woman's work in Haiti earns papal recognition

November 25, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- After her first mission trip to Haiti in 2001, Agnes Supernavage was hooked.

She has dedicated herself to serving the poor in St. Claire parish in Dessalines, Haiti, through trips as a member of St. Ann Catholic Church in Hagerstown and as a project assistant for the Baltimore-Haiti project of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Her tireless efforts were recognized Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C. The Hagerstown resident was one of 57 Catholics from the mid-Atlantic states who was honored at a Mass and entered into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

"I'm overwhelmed by the whole thing," said Supernavage, 59, who is also a part-time physical therapist in Hagerstown.

Supernavage's husband, Charles, and one of their three daughters were in attendance.

"The ceremony was solemn and beautiful. It was attended by several cardinals, bishops and priests. To me, it was humbling to be among people who are so high up in the hierarchy and to be recognized as one of their peers," Supernavage wrote in an e-mail after the Mass.

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The Equestrian Order was established in 1099 by Godfrey de Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade. It is an Ecclesiastical Order of Knighthood and was instituted in ancient times to guard and honor the Holy Sepulchre of our Divine Savior in Jerusalem, according to information provided by Wendy Varron, secretary to the pastor at St. Ann.

"Basically, I think Agnes embodies what it is to be Catholic and a follower of Christ. She has the highest integrity, honor and charity, and is a very humble person," Darlene Stojak said.

Stojak and her husband, Jim, are parishioners at St. Ann who are a lady and knight of the Equestrian Order. Darlene Stojak said the order is a worldwide honor that has to be approved from the local level all the way up to the pope.

Membership is considered one of the highest honors and, over time, has evolved from defending the faith to recognizing clergy and laity who have performed meritorious service in the church and community and who will make a commitment to support the Holy Land.

"Our parish is proud to have Agnes receive this papal honor," Varron wrote in an e-mail.

Supernavage's work in Haiti focuses on supporting education through a feeding program in the three schools of St. Claire parish. She said malnutrition is a big problem in Haiti and students who go to school hungry can't concentrate on learning.

Through the efforts of Supernavage and St. Ann parishioners, hot meals are provided to preschool children. Fifty dollars feeds one schoolchild for the school year.

Supernavage often makes two trips to Haiti each year -- one with adult volunteers to work on health and hygiene education, the other in the summer with high school students who help with a summer day camp.

For more information on the Equestrian Order, go to www.holysepulchre.net. For more information on the mission work of St. Ann Catholic Church in Haiti, go to www.stannhaitioutreach.com.

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