.- The president of Haiti’s Bishops’ Conference has mournfully recounted the burial of seminarians killed in the country’s massive January quake. Describing the strains and torments in the disaster’s wake, he says the surviving seminarians will help other grieving victims despite their own suffering.
“I cannot hold back the tears when thinking about their burial. We could not even provide them with a coffin, only a pathetic plastic bag,” Archbishop Louis Kébreau of Cap-Haitien told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
“I feel completely helpless in this situation,” he continued.
The earthquake killed 16 diocesan seminarians in Port-au-Prince. Another 10 from the Montfortian order died when the earthquake destroyed their seminary bus. Most were under 25 years old.
Those whose bodies were recovered were buried on the grounds of the devastated major seminary. The bishops are concerned that they may never find all the bodies.
The 200 seminarians who survived the quake lost their formation center and are now in severe need of help. ACN dispatched $170,000 in aid within a week of the disaster. This included support for the seminarians.
Archbishop Kébreau said he was “deeply grateful.”
“ACN always comes to help, like the Good Samaritan, bringing shelter and giving hope.”
The archbishop said he feels responsible for the seminarians’ physical health and spiritual well-being.
“It shakes me to the core when I think about how I had to give the go ahead to the amputation of a leg of a seminarian and of an arm of another,” he explained.
“It is necessary for the reconstruction of the whole country that these seminarians overcome their trauma and receive good theological formation,” the Haitian archbishop added.
He now wants to focus on caring for the surviving seminarians so that they can help other disaster victims.
“A lot of people have lost relatives, some are now completely alone and all of them are in complete misery.”
Archbishop Kébrau traveled 125 miles from his diocese in the north of the country to Port-au-Prince to meet bishops from the neighboring Dominican Republic, who visited to show their solidarity and to contribute $100,000 to the relief efforts.
The archbishop’s journey took 12 hours after his own vehicle broke down halfway through his trip. ACN reports he had to borrow another car to complete the trip.
Asked about his own needs, the archbishop said he needed nothing, but asked “that God grant me the necessary strength so that together with the other bishops we can rebuild the Church.”
He also quoted the prophet Jeremiah: “Judah mourns and her gates languish; her people lament on the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.”