A Haitian bishop who survived last year's devastating earthquake believes that the rebuilding of his country is a new opportunity to proclaim the word of God.
“The fact that I survived the earthquake shows me that God still needs me, and that I have a mission to fulfill,” Bishop Launay Saturne of Jacmel said in a Feb. 24 interview with the international charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Part of that mission involves rebuilding Jacmel's cathedral, which was destroyed in the earthquake – along with many other church properties, homes, businesses, and government buildings. After the capital, Port-au-Prince, Jacmel was the city second-hardest hit by the disaster.
Many of Jacmel's 344,000 Catholics, who comprise 65 percent of the population, have been worshiping in tents for more than a year. Bishop Saturne, who received his episcopal consecration four months after the January 2010 earthquake, is intent on rebuilding the cathedral as a “place of unity” for the faithful.
But he emphasized that there could be “no rebuilding without mission, without evangelization, without prayer, without the proclamation of the Word of God.”
Bishop Saturne said the catastrophic earthquake – which was followed by a tropical storm, a cholera epidemic, and a political crisis in the island nation – had forced many Haitians to place their trust in God as never before.
“The things of this world are very fragile,” he noted, and “can collapse like a house of cards.”
Amid the ruins, Bishop Saturne said he had observed an “all-embracing brotherliness and solidarity” that allowed Haitians to cope with the loss of everything.
He observed that the crisis had especially united Catholics, Protestants, and members of other religious communities. It had also “focused world attention on Haiti, and triggered a great solidarity,” put into action by Catholic Relief Services and many other non-governmental organizations.
Vast numbers of the earthquake survivors are still homeless. Bishop Saturne wants to remind them that they still have God, their neighbors, and the chance to rebuild on a foundation of faith.
“As shepherd of my diocese, I tell people who have lost everything, that even if everything else has gone, God has still spared our lives.”
“With them,” he said, “we have the duty to work for a more humane, more reconciled world and for a better future.”