Pilgrimage to Haiti: Ash Wednesday

With rubble to their backs, the pilgrims to Haiti gathered with the community of Cathédrale Sainte Trinité to observe Ash Wednesday and be reminded on their foreheads and in their surroundings that they are dust, and to dust they will return.

At the invitation of the dean of the cathedral and Bishop of Haiti, the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, the Rev. Jude Harmon, and the Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite assisted through the course of the Ash Wednesday service. Bishop Andrus was invited to bless the ashes and then assist with their imposition. Harmon and Bidwell-Waite proclaimed the Gospel in French and English respectively. Harmon translated the sermon into English so that non-French speakers could more fully participate in the invitation to a Holy Lent.

The dean of the cathedral invited those present to go deeper into their lives with God by fasting, being more intentional about praying, and giving more charitably than they usually would. Much to the amusement of the assembly, the dean suggested that perhaps some should fast from Facebook if it is separating them from God and their neighbor. “Above all,” he said, “take on practices that draw you closer to God and those around you, and let go of those things which divide you.”

Following the nearly two-hour service, which was enlivened by a powerful, enthusiastic choir, the pilgrims spent some time discussing their visit with the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, bishop of Haiti. He shared with pilgrims changes underway in the Diocese of Haiti to improve transparency and accountability. The group expressed their deep gratitude for his allowing the diocese’s chief operations officer Vundla Sikhumbuzo to help guide the pilgrimage.

After meeting with Bishop Duracin, the pilgrims saw presentations of architectural designs for a rebuild of St. Vincent’s and for the cathedral complex, including the cathedral, elementary, secondary, and technical schools. The cathedral complex will also include convent for the Sisters of Saint Margaret, who have been in Haiti since the early 20th century and founded both St. Vincent’s and the music school. There are currently three sisters — all Haitian — in Haiti.

Pilgrims had extensive questions about costs per square meter, total area of the buildings, and the overall costs of each project. They were told that a donor whose identity would not be revealed until Monday, March 10, had provided a significant gift for the rebuilding of the St. Vincent’s complex. [Editor’s note: Episcopal News Service article on the gift available here.]

In the late afternoon pilgrims enjoyed down time before their evening reflection on the parable of praying Pharisee and tax collector and their reflection on the day and the whole of the trip. After a slow-paced dinner, pilgrims went to bed before their day-long travel from Haiti back to California and Rhode Island, full of memories and prepared to better explain how The Episcopal Church is proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ through word and action in Haiti.