Dear Parishioner,

In Haiti, home of our sister parish of St. Jean-Marie Vianney in Belle-Rivière, there is a Creole saying: Men anpil chay pa lou – “Many hands make a heavy load light.” In the 31 years of shared experience in nurturing that community and building up its educational, medical and other vital resources, we have gained as much as we have given, thanks to the spiritual generosity of our brother and sister faithful. Now, as perhaps never before, a heavy load awaits our many hands, and opportunity presents itself.

We launch our annual January appeal for the Haiti mission in trying times, to be sure. The pandemic of nearly a year’s standing continues to besiege St. Thomas Church and its families financially, physically and emotionally. The spirit depletes along with the budget. To ask us to find funds to spare for donations elsewhere takes audacity.

As we feel the strain, however, let us remember that extraordinary hardship is ordinary in Haiti. And while Belle-Rivière itself has been spared so far by the coronavirus scourge (but will not remain so without vigilance), a pandemic in other forms is a daily reality in our village, as in the nation. One in three Haitian children is malnourished. Unsafe drinking water breeds fatal diseases long since eradicated in the First World. Health care is a luxury. Natural disasters, from earthquakes to hurricanes to outbreaks of cholera, have taken a greater toll on this destitute country than perhaps on any other.

IN BELLE-RIVIÈRE ITSELF, dramatic progress in all these crucial areas has been made thanks to the St. Thomas partnership, as the following page will show.

The need remains pressing and continued progress requires our financial help. As we look for sources of that help, it may be well to consider expenditures we have cut because of the pandemic – on entertainment, travel and other “normal” activities – and see the savings as a source of funds for a child’s education, perhaps, or a supply of clean water.

The pastor, Pere Jean Philippe, speaks for all our family across the southern waters when he writes: “Heaven will be grateful to you and may all the celestial powers surround you as well as the parishioners and benefactors of your parish for your testimony of love towards the parish of Belle-Rivière.”

Haiti may be 1,600 miles away on the map, but the people of Belle-Rivière never have been separate from us since Sharel Zelenka and her late husband Joe took the – yes, audacious – step of forming a team that would lift both parishes.  Now more than ever, nou se youn avèk travay pouw fè. We are one, with work to do.


Small sums go great lengths toward providing food, education, medical care and pure drinking water in Belle-Rivière:

  • A full-time pastor who cares for St. Jean Marie Vianney parish and 7 neighboring chapels
  • A K-13 education at the school that shares our name, St. Thomas Aquinas
  • A dedicated faculty of K-13 teachers
  • A school-lunch program for 594 students in the parish and public schools
  • A bi-weekly visit of a doctor and a dentist
  • Maintenance of a water-filter system for over 1,200 families
  • A yearly sea-container shipment with school supplies, clothes, medicines, toiletries, etc.

And here’s how far a dollar goes:

  • $23.75 hires a K-Grade 5 teacher salary for 1 week (17 teachers)
  • $101 hires 1 principal or Grade 6 teacher for 1 month (3 principals, 2 Gr. 6 teachers)
  • $110 hires a water tech for 1 month (5 techs)
  • $197 provides a school lunch for 772 students for 1 day
  • $482 pays 27 Grade 7-13 teachers for 1 week.
  • $655 provides parish support and maintenance for 1 month
  • $1,000 for 4 days/24 hours of medical clinic per month

If you are inclined to share your treasure checks should be made payable to the STA Haiti Fund and mailed to the parish office. On-line donations are accepted at https://staindy.weshareonline.org/

100 % of all donations directly benefit the people of Belle-Riviere.