(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 9 January 2018—the 2nd day of Haiti Solidarity Week)
Good morning. Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God.
Every weekday morning, in the Cazeau neighbor of Port au Prince, Haiti the roosters crow to welcome the rising sun over the mountains that surround the city while students and their families arrive to the gates of College de Saint Jean Baptist de La Salle. By the time the school bell rings to begin the day, over 650 students line up according to grade in their neatly pressed white and blue uniforms and they too begin their day with prayer, “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.”
Over 300 years ago, our Founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle realized the transformative power of education. Being well educated himself, he was fully aware that to give a child, a young person, an adult the gift of an education was to unleash human potential—the potential to transform a person, a family, a neighborhood, a community, a society and yes, a nation.
That is why, after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 the Brothers of the Christian Schools along with an Order of Sisters from Argentina, fondly referred to as the “Blue Nuns” because of their blue colored habits, began the project of building a school and a health and nutrition educational clinic in this section of Port au Prince, Haiti. What were once barren fields welcomed a small endeavor and what began with one building is now a thriving educational compound with 5 buildings that include a wing for pre-kindergarten classrooms, a main building for Kindergarten-8 grade classrooms, a new building for the developing secondary school, the Health and Nutrition educational center and the Brothers’ residence. It is a source of great hope in this neighborhood and a source of great hope for the future of the students who attend, indeed for the future of Haiti.
Permit me to share with you a story or two. Within walking distance to the school is an orphanage, New Life orphanage. It is supported by a Protestant denomination and the Director, a woman named Miriam, hails from Newtown, CT. One day, when I was visiting the orphanage she told me the story of how after the earthquake the number of children in the orphanage doubled within 72 hours. One of the concerns that was keeping her up at night with worry was the thought of how were all the children, especially those newly orphaned by the earthquake, going to receive an education? These children had arrived at her orphanage from all over the Port au Prince area with little or no information about themselves. It was clear to Miriam that many of them had not attended school before the earthquake and the ones who had received a minimal education at best.
Then one day Brother Nicholas, a Brother from the school community who was in charge of overseeing the construction of the first school building and the Health and Nutrition center visited the orphanage to tell Miriam about a new school that was being built within walking distance. When Miriam explained that she had children who should be in third or fourth grade but they had never learned to read or write, she shared “what Brother said next were miracle words, his words answered my constant prayer.” She continued, “Brother replied in response to my concern, don’t worry, we will take the students where they are at, regardless of age and steadily bring them up to grade level so they can successfully continue their studies with us.” Miriam’s eyes were filled with tears as she expressed her gratitude to all who made this possible.
You helped to make this possible…by your support and generosity throughout these past years- you have given the miracle of education to hundreds of young boys and girls and by extension their families. You have given them hope and the possibility of a brighter future.
Last spring when I was visiting the school, I attended the seventh grade English language class. Remember: for most of the students their first language is Creole and then French. Therefore, learning English would be their third language! The students were very interested in hearing about the Lasallian schools in the United States. They had many questions about your school day and what you are studying and the various sports and co-curricular activities you have here at La Salle. One young man raised his hand and said “whenever you can please let the Lasallian students know how grateful we are for all they are doing to help us receive an education. We are so proud to be part of the Lasallian family and we work very hard in our studies, please tell them thank you.” So let me now say “thank you.”
Right now, this morning at the school, there are 15 Lasallians from La Salle University on a service immersion trip. They are engaged in tutoring students, organizing art classes and coordinating athletic activities. There is also a delegation of nurses from La Salle University who are working with the Sisters at the clinic to provide basic health care to the students, their families and those in need from the neighborhood. Let us keep them in our prayers.
By your generosity over the years you and other Lasallians have assisted in providing classroom resources, computers, an English teacher, the construction of new classrooms, sports equipment, a van for school transportation and an incredible transformation of the school’s aquifer into clean drinking water for the school and the neighborhood-just to mention a few items.
There is a famous quote from the young Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai “one child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Permit me to add, one Lasallian caring for one Lasallian can change the world as well.
So on behalf of Brother Dennis Lee, Visitor of the District of Eastern North America, Brother Lanes, Principal of College de Saint Jean Baptist de La Salle School and especially the students and their families: Thank you, to each of you for being that one Lasallian changing the world…together.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us
Live Jesus in our hearts forever.
Maryann Donohue-Lynch–Associate Executive Director, Office for Mission and Ministry (District of Eastern North America)