The sun shone brilliantly as I exited the airport baggage area and a gentle, cool breeze announced that it was springtime in the Eternal City. It was good to be back in Rome where I was last in the fall of 2009 – countless moons ago it seemed. This time it was May – the 21st to be exact. However, my return to Rome at this opportune moment would have basically the same purpose as the last visit:
- To spend time at the Maddalena – my canonical community – and to celebrate the Feast of St. Camillus and the Martyrs of Charity [May 25]
- To meet with members of CTF Central to discuss our organizational structure, mission and the various projects we are undertaking with collaborators in Abruzzo, Haiti, Chile, the Philippines, and Kenya
- To visit in Abruzzo and in Rome with those involved in Project Saint Camillus: members of Caritas Italiana and Caritas Aquila; representatives from Bambin Gesu Hospital; the board of the Rainbow Study; the group initiating our newest program [Stella Polare –a facility to help children and families traumatized by the earthquake]; pediatricians participating in the Study and attending a counseling course in Aquila [see Counseling Course; La Torretta; Board Meeting – Studio Rainbow].
- To meet with President of Bambin Gesu Hospital – Professor Profitti – to discuss our collaboration in Abruzzo and to look at ways of working together in Chile.
- To visit with friends
My days in Rome and beyond went by very quickly. Most of the time I was working. I did, however, take a needed and refreshing walk or two with friends and colleagues. I say there was a certain exigency because while in Haiti there was little time nor was it advised to walk freely in Port au Prince or its environs – especially alone. You may have heard in the news of the kidnappings of aid workers in Haiti. And right before I left 2 people were killed by gunfire near the doorstep of the facility where we were living and working. Rome was a little different: the only homicidal activity I saw there was people killing time – tourists et alia.
Although physically in Italy and working to accomplish the agenda above, I was nevertheless frequently occupied with issues elsewhere – in Haiti, Chile and the US in particular. Thanks to the various means of modern communication, my need to bilocate and even trilocate was in some sense being met. Alas….
Here is a brief update:
The work in the USA with SOS DRS never stops. Thanks to D’Ann Fisher, my executive assistant, who is holding down the fort, we are moving forward. She is aided by Chris Cichantek and a host of volunteers. We are particularly busy preparing for appeals in parishes – the staple of our fundraising activities. We are hoping for and even expecting the presence of several Camillian priests this year – all from Africa. Two lay people will join the effort as will a priest from Haiti. There is much work to do. We are also expecting several new visitors in the community this summer in Milwaukee – from the US and abroad. Stop in and visit if you have time! I will be in Milwaukee off and on throughout the summer when I am not in Haiti.
The work in Chile is moving forward. Witness the mission report written by Marco Iazzolino and I at the end of our April visit in Chile to Santiago, Parral and Cauquenes. Fr. Pietro Magliozzi has also written an excellent summary of the project so far – stay tuned for that. In addition to this, CTF Central recently came to an agreement with:
- Bambin Gesu Hospital to send a 3-person team to Santiago to look at doing a study/intervention analogous to the Rainbow Study
- Misericordiae both to purchase prefabricated modules to provide beds for the hospital in Parral and Cauquenes and for their president to go to Chile to inaugurate the opening of the modules. [See Accordo fra Le Misericordie e I Camilliani per collaborare nel lavoro della Camillian Task Force dopo i disastri]
- The Camillian Center of Humanization in Madrid both to send a team of counselors [one at a time] to Chile to assist in psychospiritual care and to begin providing formation in counseling. This is in line with the plan of CTF-SOS DRS to implement a distance learning program in Latin America that will be done in collaboration with CTF Chile and the Camillian Center for Humanization in Madrid, Spain.
The work in Haiti goes forward with the arrival of Theresia Sinaga and John and the agreement that CTF Central came to with the Piedmontese Province that the former would carry out the 3rd phase of its project outside the confines of the Camillian Hospital in Port au Prince [Foyer St. Camille] at a separate location. In fact, we of CTF-SOS DRS plan to expand our project according to our mission as the situation in Haiti requires it. And it does at present.
The earthquake ravaged much of the country and now the rains are coming. The people are getting agitated in the face of a government that doesn’t seem to be providing much help. Gasoline and diesel are frequently scarce; food is a precious commodity as is housing: the landscape of Haiti is marked greatly by rubble, damaged buildings and tents. Life is going on at a feverish pace, but there is little sign of significant reconstruction. While hope does spring eternal, the situation in Haiti is still quite difficult, just as its was before the earthquake.
I just finished an excellent book that chronicles the difficulties of Haiti since before it became a country – a history marked by violence, oppression of the poor, corrupt and ineffective governments, tragic intrusions in the affairs of Haiti by foreign powers – the US in particular. At least this is the picture painted by Paul Farmer, MD – the author of the book named The Uses of Haiti. A physician and an anthropologist, Paul Farmer started Partners in Health in Central Plateau. The book is on my recommended reading list. Caveat lector.
Speaking of Haiti, on my way to Rome I learned of the unfortunate death of Fr. P. B-Aime, a 33 y/o Haitian priest from the Diocese of Jeremie, who had an inoperable malignant brain tumor – or so we found out later.
Fr. P. and I knew each other for only a short time – less than 10 days in fact. The story of that time is worth telling, though, at least in brief – if for nothing more than to remember Fr. P. and to thank the Lord for the short life of this priest of God.
My work in the second phase of the project of CTF-SOS DRS in Haiti had me helping the Church. As a result I made the acquaintance of several of Her shepherds, one of whom asked for my help when Fr. P. fell ill and the medical resources in Haiti were insufficient. I didn’t quite know what to do when his bishop asked me for help. A little prayer and a visit with Fr. Pierre’s family at his bedside at which point I first met him and saw his suffering gave me the answer though: I had to do something quickly – get Fr. P. some medical and spiritual help. If not he would remain in Haiti and likely die a slow, painful death. Maybe there was a chance we could treat him in the US I thought.
To make a long story short, we were able to get Fr. P. and his sister, W. B-Aime – a Salesian nun herself – to the US via Medishare, the University of Miami’s post-earthquake-medical-relief organization. Fr. P. and his sister Wilda arrived on Saturday May 15 at Miami International Airport. I met them there as I was in town to do some fundraising at Blessed Trinity Parish in Miami Springs.
This “God-incidence” was only one of many, all of which involved people directly or indirectly helping Fr. P. Viewed retrospectively through the eyes of faith, I could see how these moments produced a chain of events that led ultimately to Fr. P. going to the US with his sister, W.. Such are the ways of Providence. The Lord was definitely working!
We brought Fr. P. to M. Hospital in Miami where he was welcomed and treated with great care as he underwent a CT scan and then an MRI – all while staying in the critical care unit at the Hospital. Fr. P. ultimately had a brain biopsy that, unfortunately, revealed that the tumor was malignant. During the ensuing days Fr. P. declined and then died – always accompanied by his faithful sister. I had gone to Italy the day before his death, not expecting that Fr. Pierre would die so soon and anticipating that I would see him again – alive. Instead, the tumor had its way – at least for the moment.
May Fr. P. rest in peace. May his family be consoled in their grief. May Christ the High Priest give to all of them that peace that is beyond words.
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Dona ei requiem.
CTF-SOS DRS is now present and providing disaster relief on 5 continents: in Chile (S. America); Haiti and the US (N. America); Italy (Europe), Philippines (Asia), and Kenya (Africa).
Many thanks to all of those who are part of the effort. Please consider supporting our efforts. We need your help and so do those we are serving.