WASHINGTON—At their Fall General Assembly, November 15-18, the U.S. bishops will receive an update on the situation in Haiti and the U.S. Catholic Church’s emergency relief efforts so far, as well as plans to aid long-term reconstruction, including rebuilding of Church structures.
As it begins funding of Church reconstruction projects in Haiti, the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recently adopted two documents that will help guide the work of the Subcommittee in this regard.
The first document outlines the overall vision for Church collaboration and was issued by a gathering of bishops from around the world, including all Haitian diocesan bishops, Catholic Relief Services and other Church aid agencies during a meeting in Miami at the end of September.
The gathering called for a comprehensive view of development. “We aim to build up every Haitian man and woman in his or her totality: physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually,” the Final Statement said.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of USCCB Haiti Advisory Group hosted the meeting. “The key element in moving forward is unity,” Wenski said. “That means we need to get on the same page, especially about how we’re going to rebuild.”
The Advisory Group has been charged with distributing $33 million collected for Church needs from the Special Collection taken up in dioceses across the United States immediately after January’s earthquake. This amount represents 40 percent of the total amount collected which totaled $83 million. The remaining 60 percent of the funds were assigned to Catholic Relief Services for humanitarian relief and development work.
“The generosity of American Catholics has been non-stop since the earthquake and we want to provide a mechanism that we can all use to help the Haitians rebuild in a reliable, transparent, accountable way,” said Archbishop Wenski.
At the General Assembly, the U.S. bishops also will hear about the formation of a reconstruction and building unit, housed within the Haitian Conference of Catholic Bishops, called “PROCHE.” This entity was approved by the Haitian bishops also in September.
A French and Creole word that means “close by,” PROCHE is also an acronym for Proximité Catholique avec Haïti et son Eglise (Catholic closeness with Haiti and her Church).
Designed to serve as a central coordination point, PROCHE will bring together a wide range of stakeholders, including affected Haitians, Church personnel, donors, engineers and others. It will support reconstruction priorities across dioceses, coordinate projects within dioceses, and ensure timely completion of projects built to international standards and within agreed-upon budgets.
“In all my years of working with Haiti, I’ve never seen the type of collaboration between different parts of the Church as I’ve seen since the earthquake,” said Archbishop Wenski, who will brief the entire body of bishops on the global Church’s plans to rebuild church infrastructure during the November meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore. “I will ask the bishops to help motivate other Catholics interested in helping Haiti so that we can pool our talents and our treasure in favor of the Church in Haiti.”
To assist in this process, the Haitian Bishops have also issued a document entitled Partners in Mission which contains a set of guidelines for groups and parishes engaged in “twinning” relationships between Haiti and the Church around the world.
In the months ahead, Catholic Relief Services will assist the U.S. bishops in reaching out to dioceses, colleges and parishes in the United States to strengthen existing ties between the Church in the United States and the Church in Haiti.