A bond was made and a promise was kept when a contingent of parishioners from St. Jerome in Gonaives, Haiti, visited their financially and spiritually supportive American sister parish, St. Timothy, Walkersville, the week of May 12.
Last June, David Walker, a St. Timothy parishioner and co-chairman of St. Timothy’s sister parish action committee, traveled to Haiti to visit with St. Jerome parishioners. After a meeting one night, the Haitians promised to visit their Catholic brethren, who were there as part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Haiti Outreach Project.
“Our jaws dropped,” Mr. Walker said. “We said, ‘We can’t afford that.’ At which point, we came to appreciate you can’t say no to them. You just can’t.”
Rather than asking St. Timothy parish to pay their way to America, the St. Jerome representatives said they would save money.
Throughout the week of May 12, administrators and teachers from Emmanuel Constant School, of St. Jerome’s parish, toured the Washington-Baltimore area, including a visit to St. John’s Regional School in Frederick. St. John’s technology wowed the Haitian visitors, who don’t have heat or air conditioning in their school. The visitors asked teachers questions and fielded questions from students about their own home, where many children walk an hour a day to attend school.
“I thought it was a wonderful day,” said Karen Smith, St. John’s principal. “It was a great experience for our students. You could just tell from the reaction they really enjoyed the day.”
Second-graders from St. John’s donated their lunch money to St. Jerome’s pastor, while teachers at the school presented baskets of school supplies to their Haitian counterparts to take home.
St. Timothy held a potluck dinner with the visitors May 16, which included a vocal performance by young parishioners.
Una Barbagallo, co-chairwoman of the sister parish action committee, said the evening would “re-enforce our sisterhood with them.”
Some of St. Timothy’s chief objectives have been to help feed the children of St. Jerome and to contribute to the teachers’ salaries. St. Timothy’s also held a clothing drive and purchased Wal-Mart gift cards for the contingent in America so they could shop for their own personal needs.
They also planned trips to Washington and the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg.
Mr. Walker, who has been to Haiti three times, said it was heartwarming to see the benefits of St. Timothy’s generosity on American soil.
“I’ve had an exploration of my faith that I would never have had, had it not been for this program,” Mr. Walker said. “We’re engaged now in witnessing the Holy Spirit.”