Davenport, Iowa, Jul 30, 2011 (CNA) - When Abby Peeters and Whitney Leming went to Haiti earlier this summer, they didn’t expect their experiences to teach them something about themselves. They went with the intent to help teach Haitians.
A friend of Abby’s family, the late Tim Kane, had produced a documentary on ServeHAITI, a non-profit, faith-based organization that works with the people of Grand Bois, Haiti, to achieve a better quality of life. Kane shared stories of his experience and encouraged Abby, an incoming freshman at the University of Iowa, to make a mission trip with ServeHAITI.
Whitney’s mother, Lynn Leming, a teacher at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport, had made a mission trip with ServeHAITI last year and shared with her daughter the challenges Haitians face.
So when Abby and Whitney, who will be a senior at Central High School in Davenport, were offered the opportunity to make a mission trip with ServeHAITI, they said yes. They joined Lynn and members of other parishes on the June mission trip.
Lynn said she has seen much change since her visit last year, when she helped instruct teachers in Grand Bois. In Port-au-Prince, the capital, traffic was flowing, people were busy, businesses were open and less rubble was in the streets. But Haiti is not anywhere close to recovering from the devastating earthquake of January 2010. And cholera has taken lives and made many sick throughout the country, she said.
In Grand Bois, Lynn instructed teachers about different ways to balance curriculum and offered new teaching strategies. Whitney taught creative writing and Abby taught art.
“At first, I didn’t think it would be possible to teach without a translator,” Whitney said. But she learned how to connect with the Haitians through physical actions and watching the expressions on their faces. And by observing Abby, she learned she had to open herself up so that the teachers would open up.
Abby initially had been frustrated with the language barrier as well. “I couldn’t ask them if they understood what I was trying to tell them. But I learned you don’t need verbal communication. They were able to express themselves through art.”
The two young women didn’t realize until later that they, too, were learning a great deal. The Haitians “have nothing and we have everything. But I learned they are happy with what little they have,” Whitney said.
While in Haiti, Abby received a message that Tim Kane had died. Abby was in tears as was ServeHAITI volunteer Liz McDermott of LeClaire, who also was a friend of Kane’s. A Haitian youth, who had lost his father the previous year, gave comforting hugs to Abby and Liz.
“He took care of us and watched out for us,” Abby said. She felt that being in Haiti was a good place for her to learn about love and loss. “I feel we were there for a reason and purpose,” Abby said.
Lynn said this year’s mission trip gave her the opportunity to see what the teachers had learned. Her students at St. Paul the Apostle had made history timelines for the Haitian teachers. Along with the timelines, she brought maps and globes from a Davenport elementary school printed in English and Creole. She also brought charts, dice, books and other school items and showed the Haitian teachers how they could make use of these materials in their own classrooms.
“This year I spent more time having them show me what they learned,” Lynn said.
Lynn, Abby and Whitney each carried 100 pounds of supplies with them to Haiti and wore their clothing in layers so they could make room in their luggage for supplies for the Haitians.
Abby and Whitney have decided to return to Haiti next summer with ServeHAITI. The two have begun plans for fundraising to buy supplies for Haiti. “It shows that one can make a difference and you can find out more about yourself.”
Hills, Lone Tree, Nichols parishes donate to Haiti
Catholics at parishes in Lone Tree and Hills helped make 129 dresses and 107 pairs of boys’ shorts, most of which went to Haiti during a June 17-24 ServeHAITI mission trip that Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport attended. The remaining clothes will be transported to Haiti later this month.
About a dozen seamstresses from St. Joseph Parish in Hills and St. Mary Parish in Lone Tree made the dresses and shorts, said Lura Loan, a member of St. Mary’s. About five months ago, she saw a flier advertising the opportunity to sew clothing for Haitians and solicited volunteers to help.
Donations of material “multiplied like the loaves and fishes,” Loan said. Volunteers also bought men’s shirts from Goodwill and sheets to transform into shorts and dresses.
Especially helpful were parishioners Marilyn Knebel, Kaye Evans, Judy Stebral and Lucille Duwa of St. Joseph’s, which has a sister parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, in Zorange, Haiti, Loan said.
St. Mary Parish in Nichols donated 300 rosaries to send to the Caribbean country. A neighbor of Loan donated school supplies; St. Joseph’s collected hygiene items, and parishioners in Hills, Lone Tree and Nichols donated 14 suitcases in which to transport the dresses and shorts, Stebral said.
Some girls who have received dresses wear them only on Sundays, Loan said. Children wear their “rags” on the several-mile walk to church, then change into their donated outfits before entering the building, she said.
Catholics could have bought children’s clothes from a thrift store to send to Haiti, but “they’re not homemade with love,” Loan said.
“It gave us a good feeling to be able to help. You set up your sewing machine and imagine the little girl who’ll be wearing the dress. You hope God blesses her with food, shelter and love.”
Printed with permission from the Catholic Messenger, newspaper for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 30, 2011 (CNA) - Sixty children dressed in the uniform of the Swiss Guards will welcome Pope Benedict XVI during World Youth Day this August in Madrid.
The director of the group, nicknamed the “Young Swiss Guards,” told Fides news agency that the group was born out of affection for the Pope after John Paul II’s first visit to Spain in 1982.
Bl. John Paul II visited the country again in 1993 and 2003, always accompanied by the young Swiss Guards.
The group will welcome the Pope at the airport in Barajas, Spain and will greet him there at the end of World Youth Day.
Their uniforms took about 5,000 hours of work to create and used more than 450 meters of fabric and 4,200 meters of fabric tape.
Unlike their young imitators, the Pontifical Swiss Guards number 110 and are responsible for the Pope’s safety. They guard his home and assist him during important ceremonies celebrated in the Vatican.
The guard marked its 505th anniversary in January. On Jan. 22, 1506, 150 Swiss soldiers entered the Vatican at the request of Pope Julius II. It is the oldest standing army in the world.
Dublin, Ireland, Jul 30, 2011 (CNA) - Ireland's 2012 International Eucharistic Congress will continue as planned, from June 10-17, despite calls to postpone the event following the recently released Cloyne Report on clerical abuse.
“It is especially important for people in times of challenge or crisis that they can gather in solidarity and rediscover their essential truths,” said Father Kevin Doran, secretary general of the Eucharistic Congress, on July 29.
He told CNA that “Catholics are no different in this regard” and the Eucharistic Congress will “support that need” within the Church.
Senator Cait Keane, a member of Ireland's ruling Fine Gael party, had proposed the postponement, telling the Irish parliament on July 27 that “everyone will be better served, given the sensitivities around the findings of this report,” if the congress is “held at a later date.”
The controversial Association of Catholic Priests, which calls for a “re-structuring of the governing system of the Church” and a “redesigning of ministry in the Church,” has backed the idea of postponement.
But Fr. Doran said there was “substantial enthusiasm for the Congress,” both locally and internationally, and noted that the Church had been planning the event since June 2008.
He added that the Congress is not just a week-long event but a “pilgrimage of renewal,” where participants can come together to explore the meaning of Eucharist in all its dimensions, including the challenge of acting justly and walking humbly with God.”