Prayers for 'new life' as Haitians in Fla. mourn
Published: Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 1:09 a.m.
MIAMI — The head of the Catholic Church in Miami told an Haitian-American congregation Sunday that the devastation of their homeland brings a potential for resurgence and renewal.
Archbishop John Favalora spoke of "new life" that could come to earthquake-ravaged Haiti while celebrating Mass at Notre Dame d' Haiti Mission, the spiritual heart of the Haitian-American community in South Florida, which has the largest Haitian population in the U.S.
"Haiti will come with life once again," Favalora told the hundreds gathered, who clapped and shouted "Amen." ''In the midst of all the chaos and all of the problems of the world, the Lord can reach out his hand and from nothing, create something good."
Spillover crowds gathered for Masses at Notre Dame, a modest yellow building in Miami's Little Haiti, where it was impossible to find a convergent who was not personally affected by the magnitude-7 quake. But while some wiped away tears and many talked of lost loved ones, destroyed homes and the uncertainty of what would come next, there were signs of joy as well.
The choir swayed. Parishioners smiled broadly as they sang. Bongos, a keyboard and electric guitars filled the sanctuary with music.
"We have to have hope," said Rose Micheline St. Jean, a 56-year-old nursing assistant who came to the U.S. about 25 years ago and who has not heard from a half-dozen relatives on the island. "That why Jesus died for us."
Favalora spoke of an old woman he saw after a morning Mass, who knelt before the altar and offered her own simple prayer.
"Thank you, Lord Jesus," she said in Creole, "Thank you, Lord Jesus."
The archbishop also made reference to the seemingly endless suffering of Haitians and seemed to allude to the comments of evangelist Pat Robertson, who called Haiti "cursed" because of a "pact with the devil."
"Some people would say that that's a punishment, but they are wrong," Favalora said, drawing laughter and "Amens." ''The Lord Jesus himself was a suffering son of the father and that was not for punishment, that was to bring new life."
Outside the church, volunteers furiously packed trucks with bottled water and canned food to be shipped to Haiti, and a constant stream of cars came to drop off more donations. Many continued to talk of how lucky they were.
"I've been feeling guilty ever since it happened, because I look how we're living here and how they're living there," said Yvelino Ivean Damas, a 30-year-old delivery man from Miami who came to the country at the age of 8. "Everytime I turn on the TV, it's like I'm watching a movie."
Hopefully, Damas said, the earthquake is the miracle that changes it all.
Hours later, authorities blocked off a portion of a street not far from Notre Dame, where about 100 people gathered for a community wake. The group sang and prayed under a cloudy night sky as red and blue police cruiser lights flashed around them.
Anne Marie Mercier, 51, of Miami, said her family members survived the quake, but she still spent days crying. Another woman, 49-year-old Marie Jeudy, said it's been difficult for her to see pictures and watch the coverage of the devastation.
"This is the first time I've seen something like that," Jeudy said, of Hollywood.
The attendees held hands and prayed, and when Haitian music blared from speakers, some swayed along. A group of young people repeated the need for donations, and Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, told the crowd that relief supplies hadn't yet reached victims.
"Our own brothers and sisters are dying, and their voices are getting faint," Bastien said. "Let's join hands, let's join our hearts. Let's send our prayers to them."
Associated Press Writer Sarah Larimer contributed to this report.
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