About our La Salette parish: Bayonnais, Haiti, is about 20 miles East of the city of Gonaives in the state of Artibonite, Haiti's third most populous city, Gonaives (124 miles north of Port-au-Prince). The Bayonnais Valley in Haiti is a remote mountain valley in the North of Haiti with little to no infrastructure or access to services of any kind. For nearly two centuries, subsistence farming has characterized the livelihood of 80,000 people in rural Bayonnais, Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. This is not uncommon. Following colonial independence in 1804, former slaves exercised newfound freedom by cultivating their own land in the countryside.
I had thought of entitling this article, “How I spent my Thanksgiving Vacation,” except it really wasn’t a vacation. And I feared losing those readers who could care less about my personal time. So, “The Last Time I Visited Haiti,” will have to do. Although this is longer than my average letter, I am hoping you’ll be interested enough to read something of the country and situation in which our missionaries are working.
Fr. Jeannot, the Provincial of Madagascar, had to be in the States for a meeting of the General Council, and so he and I decided a joint visit to Haiti would be in order. After all, we are partners in this mission endeavor where there are now two Malagasy La Salettes with a parish entrusted to their care – about which I’ll write more later. We decided to brave threat of earthquake, cyclone and cholera – all of which have struck Haiti in the past year – to encourage our brothers missioned there. Moreover, I wanted to understand what they have to deal with so that I can communicate it to you, as well as to those benefactors who support our mission endeavors.