There is a song in the play Les Miserables when the lyrics “to love another person is to touch the face of God,” sear our souls with their profound and poignant truth. As I accompanied the SSND-Beyond Borders Partnership Speakers throughout the province last week, those lyrics came to me again and again while I observed Students, Faculty, Sisters, Associates and Province Staff listen and respond to Freda Catheus and Maureen Plaisimond’s heart-searing testimony about our partnership work on the island of La Gonave.
In this second decade of the 21st century, it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the kind of poverty that exists on this small island off the coast of Haiti. The reality that Haitian people live every day with little access to clean water, sanitation, electricity, healthcare, roads, classrooms and learning resources is unimaginable to us here in North America. The practice of parents “sending their children away” and unwittingly into dreadful domestic servitude because they are trying to save their lives, is far beyond the reach of our understanding. Yet, never once, in the more than 2,000 encounters with those to whom Maureen and Freda shared the story, did we encounter, judgment, cynicism, hopelessness or disassociation. Rather, Maureen and Freda’s narrative drew the SSND family into a circle of solidarity with Haiti, wherein together “we touched the face of God in Haiti.”
Thanks to everyone who supported this important moment in our growing relationship with the people of Haiti’s La Gonave Island. It was a profound and poignant moment in the history of our province.
-Sister Arlene Flaherty