Monday, January 18, 2010

Episcopal Bishop in Haiti living in a tent city

I don't usually post Episcopal News Service items because those of you who are interested can get them emailed to you daily. But this dispatch from my friend Mary Frances Schjonberg needs be posted. Our Episcopal bishop in Haiti, the Right. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin is homeless and living in a tent city. His wife was injured and is in a hospital.

The photo is from a Eucharist in November at the Haiti cathedral in Port-au-Prince with Bishop Duracin, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the celebrant.

Here are the developments, as reported by Mary Frances:

[Episcopal News Service] Rejecting offers to evacuate him from Port-au-Prince,Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin said Jan. 18 that he must remain in the Haitian capital.

"No, I will stay with my people," the Rev. Lauren Stanley, one of four Episcopal Church missionaries assigned to the Haitian diocese, told ENS the bishop said in response to the evacuation offer.

Stanley was home in Virginia when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just before 5:00 p.m. local time Jan. 12 and has been monitoring diocesan reports from there.

"The people are strong," Duracin told Stanley, echoing messages she has received from other priests. "We still have our people, and they are strong. We need to help them."

Another Episcopal Church missionary, the Rev. Canon Oge Beauvoir, the dean of the diocese's seminary, is still in Haiti and working with Duracin. Mallory Holding, 23, and Jude Harmon, 28, two Young Adult Service Corps missionaries, left the country late last week.

Duracin, who was made homeless by the quake, said he is caring for 3,000 other homeless victims of the quake in a tent city in downtown Port-au-Prince. More than 100 of the diocese's churches have been damaged or destroyed, he said, including the demolished Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral) in Port-au-Prince. At least four of the diocese's 254 schools, ranging from pre-schools to a university and seminary, were destroyed.

One of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church's 12 overseas dioceses, Haiti is numerically the largest diocese in the church with more than 83,000 Episcopalians in 169 congregations served by just 37 clergy.

Meanwhile, Episcopal Relief & Development President Robert Radtke told ENS Jan. 18 that two agency staff members are on the ground in the Dominican Republic assisting the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic's efforts to aid its neighbors to the west in Haiti.

And, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe ( Bishop Pierre Whalon, told ENS that Nady Mbele-Mbong, the grandson of General Convention Deputy Helena Mbele-Mbong and her husband Samuel, has been airlifted out of Haiti to Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic's capital.

The 10-year-old's mother Lisa, 38, did not survive the collapse of the human-rights section of the building that housed the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in Port-au-Prince where she worked as a human rights officer. She reportedly had left a meeting to check on the trembling when a falling concrete slab struck her, killing her instantly.

The Washington Post reported that Nady was with the driver who had always picked him up from school and was outside the U.N. complex waiting for his mother when the quake struck. U.N. officials found his passport in his mother's purse.

Nady's aunt Leontyne will come to Santo Domingo to take him to Paris, Whalon said. From there he will go to be with the Mbele-Mbongs who live in France near Geneva, Switzerland. Meanwhile, he is being cared for by Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguin and retired Diocese of South Carolina Bishop William Skilton, assisting bishop in the Dominican Republic.

Lisa Mbele-Mbong will be buried out of her parents' parish of Emmanuel Church in Geneva once the U.N. has repatriated her body, Whalon said, adding that the process could take until February.

Duracin told Stanley that he is working to coordinate relief services and trying to
provide the tent city occupants with basic supplies such as food, water, medical care and shelter.

"We have lost everything and need your help," Duracin told Stanley.

Duracin's wife, Marie-Edith, was injured when their home collapsed. She was taken to Zanmi Lasante, thePartners in Health hospital in Cange, outside of Port-au-Prince, Stanley reported.

The bishop said he was to meet with the diocese's Executive Council on the morning of Jan. 18 to determine its recovery priorities. Already, he told Stanley, he knew that those priorities would include the hard-hit area of Trouin, a mountain village about 23 miles southwest of the Haitian capital and near the quake's epicenter, and nearby Léogâne, where the diocese runs St. Croix Hospital and the only baccalaureate-degree nursing school in the country.

Trouin, where four people were reportedly killed by the earthquake during an Episcopal church service, is just outside Léogâne, in which news reports say close to 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed.

"There are many people hurt and injured there," Duracin said. "They need your help."

Nursing school dean Hilda Alcindor told the Wall Street Journal that she and the nursing students have treated 5,000 people since the quake. A tent city has sprung up in the open fields around the school.

Alcindor had been a nurse in Florida for 30 years before she returned to Haiti in 2005 to help the diocese begin the nursing school.

"Léogâne is all broken," she told the Journal, adding that the school does not have the medical supplies it needs.

Duracin told Stanley that he is thankful for the help that has already arrived and that which is on the way.

"We are grateful," he said. "Please continue to pray for us, and to help us. There is nothing left."

In the Dominican Republic on Jan. 18, Kirsten Muth, Episcopal Relief & Development interim director of international programs, and Katie Mears, its program manager for U.S. disaster response and preparedness, were coordinating supply and transport channels and ensuring that supplies are being delivered to areas outlying Port-au-Prince.

Abagail Nelson, senior vice president for programs, said the immediate focus is on Trouin. Muth and Mears are also supporting Dominican Episcopalians as they feed and house Haitians coming across the border.

Haitians in various stages of health began fleeing into the Dominican Republic soon after the quake. In addition, because the nation is the closest place where the infrastructure is intact, it has become an important relay point in the wave of assistance that is building.

"Side by side with the churches, we are establishing staging areas to get supplies to those in critical need," Nelson said.

The agency has said that, at this point in the relief effort, monetary donations are the best way for most individuals to partner with Haitians. To donate to Episcopal Relief & Development go to; call the agency at 1-800-334-7626 ext.5129, or mail a gift to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. Please write "Haiti Fund" in the memo of all checks.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is ENS national correspondent and editor of Episcopal News Monthly.

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