Helping a sister parish in Haiti Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 08, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
haiti parish
A group of parishioners from St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie are pictured in Potino, Haiti, where they helped put a roof on Precious Blood of Jesus Church, their sister parish. (Contributed photos)

SUN PRAIRIE -- If you look at the summer forecast for most of Haiti, you’ll see rain, including thunderstorms, in the outlook.

Thankfully, the Catholic community, members of Precious Blood of Jesus Parish in Potino, Haiti, will be able to worship and partake in the sacraments with a well-built roof over their heads.

Sister parish

Precious Blood of Jesus Parish is a sister parish to St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie.

During the past few years, members of St. Albert have visited Potino and have gotten a first hand look at the parish, its people, and how they could help Pastor Fr. Edouard Jerome and their sister parishioners.

During one of the trips, which included some parishioners who have construction backgrounds, it was determined that one of the biggest needs was replacing the roof of the church building.

St. Albert parishioners said that they were “amazed that it was still standing”.

Plans then got underway for a team of parishioners to travel to Potino and replace the roof.

Big undertaking

St. Albert parishioner Jeremy Woldt, who owns JW Remodeling in Sun Prairie, spearheaded the roof replacement project.

JW Remodeling, along with Stevens Construction of Madison, donated many of the tools and supplies that would be needed and made the project affordable for the parish to complete.

The supplies were sent to Haiti ahead of time so everything would be there when the parish team arrived.

Severe weather would delay the project several months before the team of 11 finally arrived in Haiti in November of 2018.

The group included a doctor and five people with a construction background.

The team arrived in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, where first-timers to the country got their first glance at a different way of life.

Parish volunteer Barbara Cashman said it was “quite overwhelming for me” seeing a huge city with very little infrastructure “but I never felt uncomfortable or scared.”

Parish volunteer Jim Maastricht said getting from Port-au-Prince to Potino required travel on a “hazardous mountain road” and “to get lumber and equipment there is almost impossible.”

After the materials were sent to Haiti, they “got as far as where the pavement ends,” said Maastricht, and villagers had to transport the supplies by hand, taking trips lasting three hours at a time.

As the volunteers soon discovered, not all the lumber and supplies made it to the village, leaving many of them questioning if they would finish the project.

Working together

The team had about a week to finish the project

There was no water or electricity in Potino. “When it gets dark, it’s dark, and you have to stop,” said Maastricht.

The volunteers worked from sunup to sundown for nearly a week.

Members of the parish and village helped, carrying lumber and other items.

Schoolchildren were given days off of school to help.

Cashman called it a “beautiful thing” seeing the community come together and assist with the project.

The construction experts on the trip gave instructions to the villagers, through pointing and demonstrating, if they wanted to help with the heavy and manual work.

During the week, one of the St. Albert volunteers took time to make two playground swings for the area children in an area across from the church.

“It drew so many people,” said Cashman. “It was great to hear the laughter.”

A prayer answered

With the clock ticking on the final day of work, and the roof not yet completed, some prayers were needed, hoping that the number of trusses they built would be enough and that the work could be done.

About one hour before the sun went down, the roof was finished, one prayer answered.

Thirty minutes later, it rained.

“God tested the roof for us, and we finished just in time,” said Maastricht.

He also said that had the team made the amount of trusses that they had originally planned to, but couldn’t because of missing materials, they might not have finished the work.

“The way God answers that prayer isn’t the way you always anticipate it . . . we actually needed God to have a hand in that” and take some of the materials away, he said.

“To finish that project was pretty amazing,” added Maastricht.

Cashman said that it “felt like a beautiful closure to all of it . . . it was a wonderful evening.”

The team departed back to the United States the next day.

To learn more about St. Albert the Great Parish’s relationship with Precious Blood of Jesus Parish in Potino, Haiti, go to https://saintalberts.org/haiti-outreach