Three years after the island nation of Haiti was rocked by a devastating earthquake, efforts to rebuild the local Church have made progress, but there is still much to be done.
“With the earthquake, we have many more problems that are urgent to manage,” said Bishop Launay Saturné of Jacmel, Haiti, in a video posted online by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Speaking through a translator, he explained that many buildings were damaged or destroyed, and the country’s economic problems have compounded the situation.
“So now we have to redouble our efforts to reconstruct the country and the diocese of Jacmel,” he said.
“Progress has been achieved,” Bishop Saturné acknowledged, noting the construction of a multi-use hall and repairs to a local school building.
However, he continued, the local Church is “not yet at the end of the road” and will require additional assistance to rebuild materially.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake ripped through Haiti, destroying much of the nation’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. More than 200,000 people were estimated to have been killed in the earthquake and one million more left homeless.
Following the natural disaster, the U.S. bishops held a special collection in every diocese throughout the country, raising more than $85 million for earthquake assistance.
The bishops designated 60 percent of the money to Catholic Relief Services, the official U.S. Catholic international humanitarian agency, which worked to supply food, water, medicine and shelter to victims, as well as to aid in long-term relief efforts.
The remainder of the money was set aside for reconstruction of Church infrastructure in the country. Repair costs for these buildings were estimated to be higher than $150 million.
The U.S. bishops conference later joined with the Church in Haiti and other countries to form the Partnership for Church Reconstruction, known as “Proche.” The group was created to efficiently coordinate and mandate reconstruction efforts, ensuring that new buildings could withstand future natural disasters.
Archbishop Bernardito Cleopas Auza, apostolic nuncio to Haiti, observed that the process has not been easy. Poverty and political instability have created an environment that makes recovery difficult.
Reconstruction efforts “have been hampered one way or another by several factors,” he said, “but now I can say that we have come a long way, and I must say that progress has been rapid in the last few months.”
The nuncio offered thanks to God that the work of rebuilding has been increasingly “crowned with tangible results.”
Nearly 40 projects are currently underway, funded by Proche and other groups.
These include the reconstruction of Marie Dominique Mazzarello College, studies to repair the Old Jacmel Cathedral, the building of transitional seminary facilities and the reconstruction of parish churches and schools throughout Port-au-Prince.
The projects are in various stages of completion. Sacré-Coeur church in Port-au-Prince – a major reconstruction project – is still in the design phase, while the St. Francis of Assisi church in Grand Goave is nearly finalized.
However, the construction unit of Proche has received more than 100 project applications, and more work is needed. The U.S. bishops have pledged their continued aid in helping the local Church rebuild its infrastructure.
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn explained that during his first visit to the devastated regions of Haiti, he saw “the incredible, challenging environment in which reconstruction needs to happen.”
“This approach needs our continued support and our vigilance to ensure the continuation of progress in the reconstruction of the church in Haiti,” he said.