By Barb Arland-Fye
The late Msgr. Leo Feeney was a huge supporter of his parish’s efforts to build a relationship with the people of Haiti. When the pastor of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire died unexpectedly before a big fund-raiser in October 2008, Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was already on his way to Iowa for the fundraiser. Archbishop Miot and Father Reginald Joachim, also of Haiti, were among the concelebrants at Msgr. Feeney’s funeral Mass at Our Lady of the River Parish.
Now parishioners from the LeClaire parish and others who are part of ServeHAITI are mourning the loss of Archbishop Miot, who died Jan. 12 in a massive earthquake there.
“He was such a wonderful man. We lost a wonderful soul, truly a man of God. It’s just heartbreaking,” said Liz McDermott, a volunteer with ServeHAITI, who has made numerous mission trips to the medical clinic that ServeHAITI operates in Grand Bois, some 58 miles from Port-au-Prince.
Msgr. Feeney had also made a couple of mission trips to Haiti. That’s where he met Archbishop Miot.
“One of last times (Msgr. Leo) was in Haiti, we met with Archbishop Miot at his building in Port-au-Prince,” said McDermott, a member of Our Lady of the River Parish.
When ServeHAITI decided to host a major fundraiser in Iowa, organizers invited Archbishop Miot to attend, as well as the pastor of the San Pierre Parish in Grand Bois and the clinic’s doctor, Leo Bourgouin. Msgr. Feeney also planned to attend the Oct. 11 event in Davenport, but had been struggling with deteriorating health. He died Oct. 6, the day before the Haitian contingent arrived.
“That was pretty providential. Msgr. Leo passed just in time for them to be at the altar for his funeral,” McDermott said.
She has learned that the clinic sustained minimal damage. “Things are OK at the clinic. They were treating patients outside the clinic for the first few days after the earthquake until they were sure it was safe to go back inside,” said McDermott, who was planning to work at the clinic Feb. 8-15 with a group of about eight Iowans from various parishes. Those plans are on hold now. Although that group’s mission trip has been cancelled, ServeHAITI has begun a schedule of rotating volunteers through the Dominican Republic to provide support and supplies to the clinic, she said.
The biggest problem they face is traveling logistics. People are clearing the rock-strewn road between Port-au-Prince and Grand Bois by hand. Vehicles are beginning to trickle up to the clinic.
“They’re getting a mass exodus of Port-au-Prince refugees traveling by foot up to Grand Bois to return to their homes of birth,” said McDermott, who has been in e-mail contact with the clinic’s doctor.
“We’re expecting a possible influx of 50,000 people to Grand Bois,” she continued. “Those people will need food and water and schooling so that they can rebuild their lives.”
The Diocese of Davenport is asking all parishes to take up a second collection following Masses this weekend (Jan. 23-24) for the people of Haiti. All monies collected are to be sent by one check to the diocese: Attention Haiti Relief. Those funds will be sent to Catholic Relief Services for the aid of the earthquake victims in Haiti.